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.I 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. 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.
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