Green Walnut Preserves Recipe (with Pictures)

Updated on July 8, 2016

You might be able to find preserved fresh walnuts in some Armenian, Greek, or Middle Eastern markets, but it's also not terribly hard to make them at home. And what's better than eating (and sharing) food you've painstakingly prepared yourself?

What can you do with green walnuts? In addition to making nocino, an Italian liqueur, fresh, green walnuts can also be used to make a delicious Armenian preserve. Like with nocino, the white/green fresh walnuts turn a dark mahogany brown, and, preserved in syrup, have a delicious, rich maple/date flavor and exquisite firm texture that goes well with bread and cheese.

What You'll Need

Scale these ingredients as appropriate:

  • 1 1/2 lbs of fresh, green walnuts (about 23-30, depending on size)
  • 1 1/2 lbs of sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups of water
  • 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean)
  • 4 cloves or 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 lb pickling lime (optional; called kir/gir by Armenians, and cal in Mexican groceries)

Start with these: fresh green walnuts (black ones, not English walnuts)
Start with these: fresh green walnuts (black ones, not English walnuts)

Find Fresh Walnuts

This will be probably the most difficult part of the process. If you're fortunate to have your own black walnut tree, or access to one, then pick them when they're green, sometime in Juneā€”the earlier the better. The size of the green walnut should be between a very large olive and a very small egg. If you harvest before the hard inner shell develops, you should be able to cut each in half very easily, and it should be a light green and white inside.

If you don't have access to a walnut tree, then go to a local farmer's market and find a nut purveyor. Ask them if you could buy some green walnuts; you'll probably have to make a special order since they might not have them on hand. You could also try calling around at some pick-your-own nut farms and see if you're able to harvest the walnut trees a bit earlier than their typical season, which is later in the summer.

As a final resort, try contacting a nut company (like Mt Lassen Farms in California) that sells green walnuts by mail order. Again, timing is key: you'll want to order your green walnuts at the end of May or very early June at the latest. (Note to those in the Southern Hemisphere: you'll want to pick your walnuts in December.)

Peel and Soak Your Green Walnuts

For the next step, you'll need gloves: rubber kitchen gloves are just fine, although latex gloves will probably afford you more flexibility and comfort. Green walnuts, when cut open, leak a clear, colorless liquid which will very rapidly turn a dark, coffee-colored brown and which will stain your fingers in a way that takes a couple weeks of relentless scrubbing to get off!

  1. So, don your gloves, and use a potato peeler to take off the skin. You can also cut off any woody stem bit at the ends, too.
  2. Place the skinned walnuts in a pot of cold water. You might also want to prick your walnuts at least halfway through with a fork, although you can also do this a few days later after your walnuts have soaked for a while.
  3. At this stage, be sure to weigh your peeled walnuts. This will be important at a later stage.
  4. Soak your walnuts in fresh, cold water for 9 days, changing the water twice daily. They will float, but you can keep them submerged by placing a ceramic plate on top of them. The water will take on a gold-to-green color by the time you rinse them. Rinsing is important because you're basically washing away the natural bitter taste in the unripe walnuts. You'll also notice that the walnuts will slowly darken, going from a light green to a dark green to an eventual dark mahogany brown.
  5. If you want a firmer walnut preserve, then transfer and soak in lime water (pickling lime dissolved in cold water) for days 5-8, changing the water daily. The pickling lime contains calcium hydroxide, which is safe in small quantities, and which precipitates the naturally-occurring pectin in the walnuts, resulting in a firmer (but still soft) preserve.
  6. You'll still want to soak in regular cold water for the 9th day.

After peeling, poke and submerge in water.
After peeling, poke and submerge in water.
You'll soak for a total of 9 days. After soaking in water for 4 days, soak in pickling lime water for days 5-8 if you want a firmer preserve. Finish in plain water on day 9.
You'll soak for a total of 9 days. After soaking in water for 4 days, soak in pickling lime water for days 5-8 if you want a firmer preserve. Finish in plain water on day 9.
Cooking in syrup.
Cooking in syrup.

Prepare the Syrup and Cook Your Walnuts

  1. Poke each walnut 3-4 times with a chopstick, a large knitting needle, or a fork, then throw them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and allow to dry completely.
  2. Add the sugar and water to a pot. Bring to a boil, and then toss in the walnuts. Bring to a boil again, and then simmer the walnuts in the syrup for about 30 minutes. Cover and allow to cool for about 6 hours (ideally overnight).
  3. Add the lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves/cardamom to the pot, reheat, and cook for another 30 minutes. Check a walnut to make sure it is soft but still has some "give" (it should have the texture of cheddar cheese); if it's still too firm, cook it longer until it softens.
  4. When the walnuts are ready, pour them and the syrup (I'd remove the vanilla beans) into sterilized jars and seal. I would wait at least a week before consuming, but they should keep for at least 6 months in a cool, dark place. I also suggest refrigerating them before eating; they taste great cold!

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Jason M. 

        5 months ago

        Following up on the question from "Jen" to years ago... "How do you seal the jars?? Water bath or pressure cooker?" I have had mine soaking and rinsing... I'm ready to boil. Thanks!

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        10 months ago from San Francisco

        Marg - I don't know but I'm intrigued. The peeling step is really arduous, so I'm wondering if you pick and preserve them when they're really young then you can forgo this step. I don't know for sure at all, but hope to test this theory out this year.

      • profile image

        Marg Skinner 

        10 months ago

        Jason - If the walnuts are young enough is there a need to peel them? I purchased Artisan Walnut preserve and they are quite a bit smaller than a teaspoon. they apprear to have their slightly pointed tips and somewhat rough skin still on them. Your guidance would be appreciated as I have a couple of black walnut trees in my back yard. If I were able to make walnut preserves these trees would redeem themselves for poisioning my tomatoe plants! Thank you.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        15 months ago from San Francisco

        I'm afraid not, but I have to admit I'm intrigued. Please let me know how it turns out!

      • profile image

        Michal 

        15 months ago

        Hi! I couldn't get green walnuts in israel so im trying to make it with green pecan nuts.. Any experience with that?

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        17 months ago from San Francisco

        Maybe not...I haven't tried so can't say for sure.

      • profile image

        jessica 

        17 months ago

        I live in France and we have had very heavy rain which has caused two huge branches to fall off my oldest walnut tree. i have collected the green walnuts from it and am about to try your recipe. I have to ask, is it really essencial to peel them? Other receipes I have seen on-line don't ask for this but ask instead for salt in the soaking liquid.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        2 years ago from San Francisco

        You tried the walnuts before boiling them in syrup? I can imagine them tasting insipid. What did they taste like when you finished the recipe?

      • profile image

        Miles H. 

        2 years ago

        Hi,

        Just finished making these according to this recipe. The walnuts by themselves were completely tasteless by the time I was through with the initial nine days.

        I assume the flavor of the walnuts is supposed to come from the syrup and flavorants, not the actual walnuts themselves???

      • profile image

        Louys 

        2 years ago

        Success! I used the walnuts from last year that I kept in the freezer. They were small so I didn't peel them, just poked holes with fork. I find in general peeling black walnuts much harder than regular walnuts (the ones that grew in my Grandfather's garden in Armenia.). A bit rougher texture, but good. Used Calcium Carbonate, rather than Hydroxide (can't find it) and instead of sugar used Xylitol. These are my candies, LOVE them :)!

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        2 years ago from San Francisco

        You're absolutely right - sorry for the oversight and I will add that to the directions.

        From your description of the unsuccessful batch, I'm wondering if your walnuts were a bit too mature? In Northern California, I usually pick mine no later than the first week of June. If you harvested your nuts around the same time, maybe there are differences in varieties that I wasn't aware of.

      • profile image

        WildWalnutMan 

        2 years ago

        My black walnuts don't look like yours. their husk is rough and not smooth like yours. I picked about 7 gallons of them from a wild tree. My first batch wasn't so good. The grains in the husk kinda fell off and collected at the bottom of the syrup. The husk is still mealy in places after cooking. I'm working on my 2nd batch now, using your recipe. You have Vanilla listed in the ingredients, but don't mention using it in the directions. I assume it goes in with the other spices?

      • profile image

        Louys 

        2 years ago

        It took one crystal for me to find out that it will not do.... CaCl has salty taste :)

        I had green walnuts in my freezer. I am in a process of making the preserve, using Calcium Carbonite instead. Will keep you posted.

      • profile image

        Louys 

        2 years ago

        How would the recipe change if Calcium Chloride instead of Hydroxide is used? That's all I can find. It is called " Pickle Crisp" by Bernardino for pickling.

      • profile image

        louys 

        2 years ago

        How different the recipe would be if instead of pickling lime one uses Calcium Cloride (Picks Crisp)? Can't find lime and on some places they recommend the CaCl as it is apparently less toxic and more effective.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        2 years ago from San Francisco

        I've only seen them in Armenian grocery stores myself. The vast majority of Americans have never heard of it.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        2 years ago from San Francisco

        Sorry for the late reply! You can truly eat them however you want. Traditionally they're sliced in half and put on bread, or popped whole in your mouth along with a cup of tea. But don't let these traditions stop you from consuming them however you want. :)

      • profile image

        Samvel 

        3 years ago

        Thank you Jason for your text! Did wallnut jam sell in USA?

      • profile image

        Cheryl 

        3 years ago

        I guess i cheated. I found them (Harvest Song label ) at a specialty store. What are traditional or other ways you suggest to employ them? With cheese, over a slice of pound cake, over a bowl of good ice cream? dont want to open them until i have ideas.... Thanks for any suggestions.

        Cheryl

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        3 years ago from San Francisco

        Hi Amy - Are you sure it's not available anywhere? At any rate, it helps coagulate the natural pectin in the fruit so that the preserves are firmer. If you omit it, the only difference will be the preserves will be softer.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        3 years ago from San Francisco

        Hi Jen - I used a water bath.

      • profile image

        Amy 

        3 years ago

        Hello,

        How does lime work in this recipe? I'm afraid that I can't get lime in my c0untry. Do you know if I can omit it from the recipe?

      • profile image

        Jen 

        3 years ago

        How do you seal the jars?? Water bath or pressure cooker??

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        3 years ago from San Francisco

        I'm not sure what alum is used for in the process, but I'm wary myself of consuming any aluminum-based compound so I avoid it. The water draws out the bitter compounds from the walnuts, and the skin is leathery/chewy even after boiling so it's peeled first.

      • profile image

        Louys 

        3 years ago

        Very interesting..... They make this in Armenia with the regular (not black) walnuts. I have a black walnut tree. Last year, when I was there, I got the recipe, as I was planning on trying it at home (Canada). They use another chemical (Potassium Aluminum Sulfate) as well in the process..... don't know why. Do you know why do they have to stay in the water so long? Also, what happens if the skin is not removed?

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        3 years ago from San Francisco

        Sarah: Two weeks?! I've always done this at room temperature, but I suspect the reason the color isn't changing is that they're not black walnuts. (Maybe they're English/Persian walnuts instead). My guess is that they'll end up tasting just as delicious, even if they don't take on that blackish hue. Let me know how they turn out!

      • profile image

        Sarah 

        3 years ago

        I've been soaking my walnuts now for two weeks and they still are not yet black. Am I supposed to be doing this at room temp or refrigerated?

        Really excited to move to the next step!

      • profile image

        Cypriot 

        5 years ago

        This is also very traditional in Cyprus. In markets you can buy green walnuts for this purpose.

        Actually lime is added to make the walnuts hard so that they do not disintegrate while cooking. This is hydrated lime. Bitterness issue is dealt by keeping the walnuts in water for 7 days changing the water daily.

        I have been making this every year from the walnuts I pick in Kent UK.

        You have to watch the walnuts so that you get them just before the hard inner shell forms. I test them with a little pen knife if the knife goes through easily without any hard bits than it's fine and ready for picking

      • profile image

        Arm 

        5 years ago

        This is my favorite preserve. Extremely tasty indeed. Thank you for detailed recipe. I guess its time to buy walnuts already. Fortunately it is not problem to buy them in Armenia :)

      • profile image

        Erin 

        5 years ago

        I know it's not traditional, but will this work with english walnuts?

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        adoptsalot: I can see that! Esp if they were spiced a certain way.

      • profile image

        adoptsalot 

        6 years ago

        I tried these yesterday at the Kroger cheese station. They tasted kind of like gingerbread to me.

      • profile image

        Dahlia 

        6 years ago

        I grew up in Ukraine and my mom used to make this all the time. Today we went to a nice restaurant and had a cheese plate for an appetizer with one of these walnuts sliced up. We were all fighting for an extra piece of this delicacy and I asked the waiter what was it? He said it was walnut preserve from Armenia and I immediately realized that this is something that I ate when I was a child, back in Ukraine.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Bob: Yes, the lime-soaking part is part of the traditional Armenian process. I think it's optional, but it does cut some of the bitterness.

      • profile image

        Bob 

        7 years ago

        My Grandmother was an Armenian who died in 1968

        As a child I remember her making this and I remember when I used to tell my friends in school in England how this was done specially the soaking in lime part I used to get very strange looks . Oh they taste delicious

      • profile image

        Linda 

        7 years ago

        Your green walnut recipe brings a smile to my face and a growl to my stomach.

      • tebo profile image

        tebo 

        7 years ago from New Zealand

        Interesting. I wonder why someone decided to pick the walnuts early and come up with this recipe. They do sound delicious though.

      • Hollie Thomas profile image

        Hollie Thomas 

        7 years ago from United Kingdom

        They sound lovely, I particularly like the idea that they're combined with cinnamon and cardamom.

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Simone - Yeah, really! They go to an almost black color, especially after cooking. Unfortunately, here in northern California, the season is already behind us. You have to buy your green walnuts the first 2-3 weeks of June. We'll have to wait again until next year...when I plan on buying a much larger batch!

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Yay! I've been looking forward to this Hub for quite some time! I can't believe how DARK the walnuts actually get. That's seriously impressive. I'll have to give this a try! Are walnuts "in season" right now? Is that why you had such an easy time picking up a batch?

      • Lyricallor profile image

        Lorna Lorraine 

        7 years ago from Croydon

        Interesting recipe!

      • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Menayan 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Thank you, guys. Preserved walnuts are really delicious - very different from the ripe, dry walnuts you eat. They have a great springy texture and a date/maple flavor that complements the cinnamon and cardamom you can (optionally) add. Give it a try!

      • Cardisa profile image

        Carolee Samuda 

        7 years ago from Jamaica

        This is completely new to me and kinda exiting. I had no idea walnuts could be preserved this way, and green at that.

        Very useful hub.

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 

        7 years ago from Orange County, CA

        Yummy. Voting this Up and Useful.

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