How to Make Pickled Walnuts and Walnut Catsup

black walnuts on tree
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Although these old recipes don’t specify what type walnuts they used, I’m sure they used black walnuts, which are native to eastern North America. When black walnuts are mature, they fall to the ground. The recipes below use the immature nuts still on the tree in the summertime.


The nuts for pickling should be picked as early as the first of July. If a pin will go through them easily, they are in a right state for pickling. Wash, drain and pack them down in jars and smother in salt. Let stand a fortnight, drain off the resultant brine, then scald the nuts in strong vinegar. Let them stand hot but not boiling for twenty minutes. Then drain and pack in jars, putting between the layers a mixture of cloves, spice, black and red pepper, in equal quantity, with half as much mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Strew in a very little salt, and a little more sugar. Mix mustard and celery seed in a cup of salad oil, and add to the jars after the nuts are in. Scald strong cider vinegar, skim clean, let it cool, and pour over the prepared nuts. Pour a film of oil on top and leave open for two days. If the vinegar sinks through absorption, fill up the jars with more. Paste paper over the mouths, tie down securely, and set in a cool place until next year. It takes twelve months for pickled walnuts fully to “find themselves.”

Take walnuts gathered about July, when still young and soft enough to be pierced by a pin. Make a brine of salt and water, in the proportion of a quarter of a pound of salt to a quart of water. Put the walnuts into this to soak.  In eight days, pour off the liquid, and wipe and then dry the nuts in the air for a few hours. Pierce each walnut with a stout needle, place them in the pickling jars and pour boiling spiced vinegar on them so as to fill the jars. Cover with corks, and each week for three weeks pour off the vinegar, reboil it, and fill up the jars with the boiling spiced vinegar. Then finally cork and seal.

[There’s no mention of when these pickles are ready to eat].


Seasonable. Make walnut ketchup from the beginning to the middle of July, when walnuts are in perfection for pickling purposes.  You should be able to poke a pin through them.  If they’re too hard to do so, you’ve waited too long.


100 walnuts

1 handful of salt

1 quart of vinegar

1/4 ounce of mace

1/4 ounce of nutmeg

1/4 ounce of cloves

1/4 ounce of ginger

1/4 ounce of whole black pepper

a small piece of horseradish

20 shallots

1/4 pound of anchovies

1 pint of port wine

MODE: Slightly bruise the walnuts, and put them into a jar with the salt and vinegar. Let them stand 8 days, stirring every day. Then drain the liquor from them, and boil it with the above ingredients for about one-half hour. It may be strained or not, as preferred, and, if required, a little more vinegar or wine can be added, according to taste. When bottled well, seal the corks.

I love going to farmers markets or shops that sell locally grown or homemade items.  I’ve never seen walnut pickles or walnut ketchup for sale, though.  

I’ve picked up mature black walnuts in Tennessee and in Illinois. I spread them out in the sun so the green husks can dry out and be removed.  The inside shells are so hard, I have to crack them open with a hammer.  It’s a lot of work but I love the taste – they’re not like English walnuts at all.

Black Walnuts are expensive to buy, but a lot easier than harvesting them yourself. I love black walnut ice cream and brownies, and I occasionally eat them raw.

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Author: Angela Johnson

I’ve been interested in cooking since I was a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, I ate many home-cooked meals and tried out recipes (mostly cookies). Wherever I live or travel, I check out grocery stores for unusual foods, eat at local restaurants, and buy regional cookbooks. I’m also fascinated with learning how people in the past lived, and how they obtained food and prepared it.

2 thoughts on “How to Make Pickled Walnuts and Walnut Catsup”

  1. Walnut catsup! Wow! It sounds like it would be a lot healthier than tomato catsup — not so many carbs and more fiber. As for pickled, I just can’t wrap my head around that but I am not a big fan of pickles.

    1. I sure wish I could buy some walnut pickles but I’ve never seen them. If I’m ever visiting relatives in Illinois or Tennesse in the summertime, I’d like to shake some small walnuts from the trees and make some. Walnut catsup seems like too much work and I don’t use catsup much anyway.

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