Walnuts are very much used in the Romanian cuisine, mostly because they grow very well in our climate and are always on hand.
Moreover, walnuts have great texture and properties similar to those of hazelnuts, pecans or pistachios; only the taste differs. This is another important reason why walnuts are used in our cakes more than any other nut.
I always have some walnuts in the pantry, for everday use. If I'm baking a sponge cake, a few walnuts will give it a special taste. A Waldorf salad, with carrot, celery and apple needs a handful of walnuts. Even an apple pie will taste better with some ground walnuts inside the apple filling. Any chocolate cream can be turned into a walnut cream by adding a cup of ground walnuts in it. If I add a few tablespoons of ground walnuts in a simple cake layer batter, I can bake a walnut layer for a walnut cake. Then I fill it with walnut cream and cover it with ground walnuts - absolutely delicious!
Using walnuts in a cake or even in a salad is natural. Eating them raw with a glass of red wine is also natural. But making green walnut preserves is something very special and not so easy. Not many people are willing to make such a delight because it is a very hard work, not to mention dirty. This is an old recipe, from those times when guests were treated with fruit preserves and cold water, not pizza and cola! There was a time when our grandmothers made all kinds of preserves from any fruit they could find - whether from their own fruit tree, or from the market. I remember my grandma filling dozens of jars with several preserves of sour cherry, strawberries, plums, apricots, and green walnuts. It was a huge work to make all those preserves, but grandma loved to do it! I still remember the taste of her apricot jam, which I used to eat from the jar - sometimes a whole jar once!
Green walnuts are those very small, young (unripe) walnuts, which don't have the hard shell they develop when they are ripe. Their green cover has to be removed by peeling with a sharp knife. The walnuts contain iodine and most of it is in the peel. Guess how my hands would look like if I didn't wear rubber gloves? I can tell you now, because the first time I did that, I didn't know that I had to protect my hands, and the recipe didn't warn me. I was very young, almost 20 and in my first year of marriage, with no experience at all in cooking, yet the green walnuts preserves turned out very good. The black stains on my fingers lasted at least two weeks, but that was nothing compared to the delight of tasting such delicious preserves!
Last spring I planned to do it again, after more than 30 years since my first experience. Finding green walnuts when living in a city, is a hard task, almost impossible. But since now I'm living in the countryside, this isn't a problem anymore. Yet I was too late and the walnuts had already hardened their shells. This spring, I've been watching the walnut trees around the village very closely, so that I won't miss the right time when I should pick up the green walnuts.
Walnut tree starts blooming in April, like all other fruit trees. The trees have male and female flowers. The male blooms are spike-like, and they are called catkins. They appear on the last year's growths. The female flowers, which the catkins have to pollinate, appear like small clusters on the current year's growths. After pollination, the fruit is growing fast and, in about a month, it reaches its full dimension. The shell starts hardening in about a week or so after that. That's why I had a very short time to pick up the green walnuts for making the delicious preserves. Of course, I didn't measure the fruit, but I remembered from last year that I had to pick them before June 15 or it would be too late again. When the time came, I picked up about 100 walnuts. I came home victorious and tried one of the walnuts, by cutting it with a knife. The green walnuts were very good, with only the soft green husk on them. It was time to start making the preserves.
Green Walnuts Preserves
- about 100 green (young) walnuts
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- juice from 1/2 a lemon
I started by peeling off of their green husk. I used a sharp knife and peeled all the green stuff, until I saw the white core. I was careful to wear rubber gloves this time! Then I put each in a bowl with cold water, mixed with lemon juice, so the walnuts would remain white, without blackening. Walnuts contain iodine, that's why I had to keep them in cold water for an hour - so they would lose some of the iodine. That prevents the preserves from being bitter. The whole process of making the green walnuts preserves is complicated, yet not so difficult. After keeping the peeled walnuts in cold water for an hour, I rinsed them in a sieve, then boiled about 2 cups of water in a small pot. When the water was boiling, I put all walnuts inside the boiling water, turned the heat off and let stay for 10 minutes.
Then, I rinsed them again in a sieve. This was for moistening the hard shell and for taking off more of the iodine. I repeated the procedure three more times. The last time, I put all walnuts in cold water, let them stay for 10 minutes, rinsed them again, then put them in fresh cold water, for four times in a row. All that completed, I had to put the sifted walnuts on paper towels, to pull all the water from them, so the preserves won't get sugary. Meanwhile, I brought to boil water and sugar, keep it boiling at high heat for 10 minutes, until it became thicker. Then I put all walnuts inside the sugar syrup, brought to boil on high heat and kept on boiling it for 20 minutes more. I checked the syrup by pouring a drop on a plate. When the drop was stiff, the preserves were ready. I took the pot off the heat and poured in the lemon juice, stirred with the wooden spoon, then returned it to boil for a few more minutes. When the syrup was bubbling, I turned off the heat and covered the pot with a wet towel, which I tied up to the pot by fixing the ends beneath the pot's handles. I let it cool off until the next day, then poured it in clean, sterilized jars. The preserves were ready to be eaten, which I did and found them to be deliciously, yummy! This may seem difficult, but it's not. Would you like to try?
 - http://www.softschools.com/facts/plants/walnut_tree_facts/614/