Archaeologists have been successful in dating petrified walnut shells using carbon dating technology back to the Neolithic period (80 centuries ago). Walnuts may be regarded as the oldest tree-food and originates in Persia. Romans had love affair with walnuts calling it Royal Nut of Jove (Jove being the king of their many mythological gods) Still today connoisseurs regard Asian nuts as the best, but English, California and British Columbia walnuts are excellent too.
Tasting the sweet, meaty flesh of walnuts will convince anyone why it was revered for such a long time. For best results buy fresh, and in-the-shell. Crack them open before use. If you shell them the night before use, refrigerate! Never buy shelled walnuts as most, if not all, are rancid due to high storage temperatures.
Toasting walnuts before using in recipes brings out their complex flavours and changes the taste of the final dish dramatically. You can toast chopped halved walnuts in the oven (350F for 5 – 6 minutes), microwave (high 5 minutes) and pan roast for 1 –2 minutes.
Walnut oil can be used in salad dressings for spectacular effect. Buy French walnut oil in cans, and always from a store with a good inventory turnover. Once opened, refrigerate. This way it can last up to year, but it is preferable to use it up within a month or two.
Walnut Catsup Recipe
· 200 young green walnuts
· 4 quarts of vinegar
· 1 lb. chopped shallots
· 4 cloves of garlic
· 4 ozs. anchovies
· ½ lb. of salt
· 4 ozs. of whole peppers
· 1 oz. cloves
· ½ oz. of mace
Wash, then pound the Walnuts until well bruised.
Put them into an unglazed jar with shallots, garlic, salt and vinegar and stir daily for ten days.
Strain and put the liquor into a pan with the cloves, mace, pepper, and anchovies, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain and pour into bottles.
ADDITIONAL RECIPE: Walnut and Mint-Crusted Salmon
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu