Green Walnut Preserves (M’rabba al-jowz al-akhdar)

June 28, 2014  • 

I noticed a bunch of walnut trees bearing these green fruits  in our mountain town of Deir el-Qamar. I picked a few as I was walking and almost immediately a lady walking  behind me asked if I was going to cook them. We ended-up striking a conversation (found out she was an author, had worked for the UN in Iraq and written a book on the experience). She had never tasted them in a preserve but assumed that they needed to be more mature. Actually, the fruits are best picked when the walnut inside is still chewy, tender and whitish. This green, bitter  fruit morphs into an exquisite  nutty and sweet  confection once candied in syrup.dup green walnutsI had asked friends on Facebook for a recipe. Thank you so much dear Sylva Titizian, who generously came to the rescue with her Armenian grandmother’s recipe! Thank you also to Ivy, with her treasure trove of Cypriot and Greek traditional confections. Not very common  in Lebanon (except with the Armenian community where it is traditional), it is mainly a Greek, Cypriot, and Azerbaijani homestyle sweet.  These are the epitome of slow food. Easy to prepare, they are an unusual dessert jolting conversation when things come to a lull.  prick them NOTE: Most of the recipes call for adding spices such as cloves, cinnamon or even cardamom. Personally, I used none. The sweetness of the syrup and nuttiness of the walnuts enmesh in perfect harmony.   Also, best to wear gloves when handling them as they tend to stain. 

INGREDIENTS: I adapted Sylva’s recipe but will give her original instructions at the bottom.

  • 45 to 50 Green (and soft) walnuts, peeled, tips discarded (early growth, not hard ones)
  • 1 cup pickling lime (aka CAL in Latino markets in the US)
  • 2 pounds white granulated sugar (32 ounces) or up to 4 pounds

1. Place the walnuts in water for about 7 to 10 days, changing the water frequently; they will darken. It is OK. 


2. Pour the lime in a large pot and dissolve in a lot of water (I used 64 ounces). Add the walnuts (water should cover the walnuts) and stir from time to time. Leave for 24 hours then drain and rinse the walnuts thoroughly a few times until no trace of lime remains.

3. Make the syrup; place the sugar and double the amount of water (I used 64 ounces) in a pot and bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Prick the walnuts with a fork or skewer or cake tester twice. Add the walnuts after the syrup has cooled and let it sit for a day. Remove the walnuts and boil the syrup twice for 1o minutes at 4 hour intervals. Cool, add the walnuts and simmer gently until the syrup thickens. Cool and serve.

The syrup should be thick enough for a drop of syrup to stiffen immediately if dropped on a counter, if not simmer it longer (I went out on an errand and came back to find the syrup simmering and ready, about one hour). Sylva’s grandmother used 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid in the last boil and finally 1 teaspoon cloves and 1 inch cinnamon bark a few minutes before the end of simmering. 

NOTE: I found a green walnut preserve recipe in Barbara Abdeni Massaad’s book Mouneh in which scented geranium leaves are used as well as a flavoring. I added a few notches of gold edible paper on them after my daughter suggested it.   

NOTE: Some recipes I read here and there do not add the pickling lime. 

Comments

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  1. Rosa says:

    A fascinating and tempting treat! I’d love to taste these.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    This is intriguing! I have had pickled green walnuts before, and made a (really disgusting) Italian green walnut liqueur, but never thought to do them this way! You are traditionally supposed to harvest green walnuts on the feast day of John the Baptist (24th June) but ours aren’t nearly ready yet. I will keep an eye on them and try this!

  3. humble_pie says:

    i don’t believe this! green walnuts – as opposed to ripe walnuts – have been a personal holy grail for me for many years, ever since i first learned about their medicinal properties in herbology class.

    as far as i know these are technically “black walnuts,” ie from the tree named juglans nigra; they are harvested in the green stage, before the outer skins have turned black.

    i never found any green-stage walnuts from black walnut trees until very recently. Even then i only came across 3 green-stage walnuts, of which one was perfect within, so it served alone to make perhaps 70 ml of black walnut tincture. Afterwards, my fingers remained blackened for a couple of days.

    the trees themselves are extremely valuable for cabinet-making purposes – a good specimen is easily worth $20,000, i hear. There are tree rustlers who will fell & steal a valuable black walnut growing in the open, so a forest or wood-lot owner has to be able to protect this precious possession.

    the walnuts i found were growing in a mystical place. A benedictine brotherhood of agricultural monks have been cultivating extensive apple orchards at their silent monastery situated south of montreal, quebec for many decades. Their expertise is such that giant juice processor Lassonde – reportedly the world’s biggest commercial producer of apple & other fruit juices – situated their principal processing plants close to the monastery, in the village named Rougemont, which became the principal brand name for lassonde’s popular consumer juices.

    the monks also operate a big U-pick project in their apple & pear orchards, starting each year in august. One recent year we’d gone to pick apples. It’s an idyllic location high on Mont Rouge (of course!) looking out over a broad valley. Walking about after the picking was done on the higher levels of the orchards, we came upon a solitary black walnut tree, with perfect green not-yet-ripe fruit.

    i don’t know how come you guys have black walnuts at the green stage in may & june. We found ours in october!

    although it is a silent order, the monks had posted a merry & chatty brother at the gate, to help with traffic since their orchards are so popular with u-pickers. You pay when leaving by showing Brother Loquacious what you’ve picked, so i showed him my 3 walnuts as well as my apples.

    ah oui, he said cheerfully, the government Department of Agriculture gave us 3 black walnut trees about 15 years ago, to raise as an experiment, so what you found was the best one of the 3.

    the brother told us that early french settlers here in the north did make a syrupy preserve (une confiture) of the green-skinned fruits.

    but i can’t even imagine the heavenly luxury of finding 40 or 50 fruits! oh! swoon!!

    • Joumana says:

      humble-pie: there are lots of them in the streets here and nobody is paying much attention to them! WE planted a couple of trees in our orchard recently so I am hoping to see fruit in a couple of years; the variety is Greek but I dont know the specific name. Thanks again for all your interesting info love the story about the monks! 🙂

      @gabi: Thanks for reminding me! I will add it to the instructions! 🙂

  4. Gabi says:

    actually candied walnuts are well known in France and Germany, too. Not peeled (remember the gloves) and without pickling lime, but otherwise marginally the same recipe. Spiced with gloves, cinnamon, laurel and lemon peel. Delicious together on a piece of good bread and sheep cheese.

  5. humble_pie says:

    gabi, laurel & lemon peel sound like great spices for this confiture, but surely nobody adds gloves?

    (jk)

    yes walnut preserves would be heavenly on good artisanal bread with a sharp cheese

    it’s not surprising the preparation is well-known in france & germany. I wonder about england, they have black walnut trees as well. The early french colonists in new france – later to become canada – would have brought the knowledge & the recipes with them.

    the principal medicinal property of a black walnut tincture made from green-stage fruits is that it’s an effective anaerobic bacteria & parasite killer. Anti-amoeba, anti-dysentery. This property was probably far more important in times before universal refrigeration was invented.

    joumama you may have shone a light & brought to everyone’s attention an ancient & delicious food-preparation custom that was widespread among the folk across europe & the middle east, even parts of north america, in bygone years. A custom that is presently in danger of slipping out of sight forever, unless expert cooks like yourself can rescue it & haul it back into view.

    the presentation in the elegant gilded bowl & the small dots of edible gilt on each walnut are just so beautiful

    • Joumana says:

      humble_pie: I am still in the early stages of discovery in regards to this confection; I think the most common spice is cinnamon. But believe me, it does not need anything! Much praise for your enlightening commentaries, always! 🙂

  6. Gabi says:

    humble_pie: I’ll exchange a g for a c. Free of charge 🙂

  7. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    Il faut absolument que je tente ça ! Tout à fait étonnant. j’en connais la version salée mais celle-ci est étonnante !

  8. Nuts about food says:

    Fascinating! I had never even seen a green walnut until a few years ago, when I found a bunch under the tree they had fallen from. I did not know you could candy or preserve them.

  9. Susan says:

    This is something entirely new to me! I love walnuts and they are so healthy too. Are walnuts there similar to our walnuts in America, Jourmana?

    • Joumana says:

      @Susan: exactly similar. In fact, all throughout the mediterranean. Now I am not an expert but of course there are varieties. But these are the same as the ones in the US.

  10. Filiz says:

    Very cool. I ate this in Ciya Sofrasi in Istanbul a few years ago along with other delicious candied/preserved items (including eggplant); I know Ciya tries to showcase dishes from different regions of Turkey, but neat to see this is evidently also a Lebanese thing. Elinize saglik (health to your hands) 🙂

  11. Elena says:

    Joumana , thank you for great recipe.!

  12. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    @humblepie – in England we pickle our green walnuts, rather than making a sweet preserve.

  13. Cathleen M. Collett says:

    In the household management book of the goodman of Paris this recipe appears. Don’t recall if it is preserved or pickled. In the UK the walnuts don’t ripen before winter, so preserving the green ones makes them edible.

  14. Erica says:

    Thank you for the recipe! One question, how do you store them? Can you put the walnuts in the syrup while it’s still hot into canning jars? would you have to process them in a canner?

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