Walnut Butter: A Comparison

When Angel and I inherited a village house in Gyueshevo from his father, we gained more than accommodations, we gained a yard filled with various fruit and nut trees. While we have such trees at our home 20km away in Kyustendil, these trees are different because their ours to do as we please. In 2009, when we were taking over the property, which had been abandoned for many, many years. All of the trees were sick and in need of basic trimming and care. Today the trees are still sick, but the walnut after some professional trimming has sprung back to life. We though it would never produce quality nuts, but nature has a way of sorting itself out!

Our walnut tree July & September 2010
My mother in-law and I headed to Gyueshevo this year to harvest the fall crop. This was actually the first time it occurred to me to gather the fallen nuts. There are two walnut trees, but the other one is on our cousin’s property, who currently resides in Pamplona, but we included their nuts in our bounty. All in all, I am gathered about 12kg maybe more and my mother in-law had just as many, plus we left a bunch on the ground and the rest that wouldn’t shake off the branches… not to mention the local wildlife that collected their stores for the winter.

I had no idea what to do with so many nuts… I used a bunch for Thanksgiving preparing a lovely Glistening Walnut recipe from Rick Rodger’s Thanksgiving 101, which was a huge hit with my friends and family, but that still left like 7 more kilos and the callouses on my hands from cracking nuts was starting to bother me.  
Hankering for some peanut butter, which I have made from scratch before, but with none around, I decided to try to make walnut butter using my large surplus of nuts. I scanned the web for some recipes or techniques, because I have been having trouble getting anything that I process with my food processor smooth. I have a feeling that my processor is giving out. It doesn’t help that the lid is broken and I need to stick a butter knife in the mechanism to get it to work and my blades are all dinged up.
I decided to use the California Walnut Commission’s recipe for my nut butter, but there was one issue that I had with their recipe, which was to soak the nuts overnight to remove the bitterness from the nuts. When I made the Glistening Nuts, the recipe called for a quick 30 second blanching in boiling water. Since I had 750g of cracked nuts, almost 2 pounds, I decided to do 250g or 8oz and make the recipe twice for a comparison, once with soaking and the other with blanching.
Only a small fraction of the shells… my compost is getting a carbon treat! 
What I found was that the blanched batch had a richer and more pronounced walnut flavor, while the soak batch was rather flat. So, I recommend avoiding the soaking method and do a quick blanch, minus the ice bath.
Soaked nuts produces a weaker walnut flavor in the butter.
Walnut Butter

250g/8oz of raw walnuts
1T honey
1/8t (a nice pinch) salt
2T vegetable oil or walnut oil
Pre-heat oven to 160C/ 350F
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the walnuts for 30 seconds, remove and drain. Put the nuts on a baking sheet and bake till golden about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place nuts in a food process and pulse till you get the desired buttery consistency, I needed to go 10 – 15 minutes, but my processor is on its way out. Add the honey and salt. Add the oil slowly… If you add it too soon you might realize that the nuts were oily enough. They say 2kg of nuts produce 1 liter of oil… those are some oily nuts.

You want to have a smooth buttery consistency, but this was the best I was able to do.  I have never had walnut butter before, so I can’t compare the textural results.

If you have had success or anything to add about making fabulous walnut butter please share.  I would love any new tips or techniques. I still have a bunch of nuts left over, which I need to crack.

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Author: caseyangelova

Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria www.caseyangelova.com

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