Years ago I worked with a lady from Iran who always talked about her mother’s preserved walnuts and how great they were. Her mom use to keep them in a jar with syrup and she would eat them like candy, the whole thing, shell and all. She said they were one of her favorite treats. Even though I love walnuts this just didn’t sound too appealing to me; eating the whole walnut, shell and all, after all walnut shells are hard as a rock, it takes a hammer to break them open.
Fast forward, about ten years later I am at a wine tasting event at Holly’s Hill Winery, http://www.hollyshill.com, in Placerville (try the El Dorado Patriarche, it’s yummy) and they were serving an appetizer that I couldn’t stop eating. It was so intriguing and different, kind of fruity with a cinnamon and nutmeg flavor. I had to get the low down on this little brown disk on top of a really nice nutty flavored cheese.
What they were serving that day was an Armenian Walnut Preserve. This was it, the preserved walnuts I heard so much about. Whole, they look like a large glistening olive in their sweet syrup. When you slice them you can see the different textures of the shell and the nut meat inside. But how does this shell become soft enough to eat? Here’s the scoop.
The walnuts are picked while still green and preserved by placing the walnuts in barrels of water until their bitterness is gone, then the walnuts are cooked in sugar to create a thick syrup, then jarred.
Preserved walnuts are hard to find. I’ve looked for them and asked in specialty food stores; no one knew what I was talking about. My search continued until this last week at the farmer’s market I found out that Dedrick’s Cheese Shop, http://www.dedrickscheese.com, in Placerville carries these walnuts. Finally, I couldn’t wait to get my jar home and open it up for a tasty treat.
|Armenian Preserved Walnuts|
|Check out the selection of cheeses at Dedricks|
These were the walnuts I had at the winery that day. I selected a sheep’s milk cheese called Ossau Iraty Onetik to go with the walnuts. This is a firm cheese and contrasts well with the walnuts. The cheese is nutty and buttery while the walnut are sweet with the cinnamon/nutmeg flavor.
The texture of the walnuts is very interesting. The shell of the walnut is now soft but it still has texture to it. I would describe it as being al dente, like pasta.
I decided to make an appetizer tray using the walnuts by pairing them with salami, fruits, Chevre, cibatta bread and pita crackers.
|Sliced preserved walnuts|
|Preserved walnuts with cheese|
I couldn’t just put the jar back in the fridge without trying them as a dessert. The walnuts are packed in a syrup that is absolutely wonderful. It’s almost like a simple syrup; it’s lightly sweet with the cinnamon flavor the walnuts have. All I could think about was drizzling that syrup over ice cream. This I couldn’t wait for; vanilla ice cream with chopped preserved walnuts with the syrup running down the sides of the melting ice cream. I will be the first one to admit that this looks like chopped olives on my scoop of ice cream, but who would do such a thing? One sweet taste of this and you will understand my obsession with these glistening, brown nuts. Next I might try mixing these with apples or putting them on top of cheesecake. Yum!
|Vanilla Ice Cream and Preserved Walnuts|
This is why I love being a foodie.