Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kitchen Experiments. Glyko Karydaki.



A few years ago, at a party thrown by an Armenian colleague of mine, I tasted sugared young walnuts for the first time and fell in love with them. Later, the same colleague bought a jar of them for me at a market that sells Armenian food products. I finished the first jar and managed to find the same brand in a Mediterranean food market near my house.  Now, I may never have to buy the commercial stuff ever again!



In late spring of this year, I was in California and Bro took me on a bike ride in San Jose. There, we happened on a grove of walnut trees which were fruiting; the trees branches were laden with green (immature) fruits. Immediately, my mind went back to those sugared walnuts that I had had years ago. I had no idea if the fruits were young enough or not - you have to get them at the stage where the internal shell has not yet harden into the brown shell that we are familiar with. It was worth taking the chance Without much arm pulling, Bro foraged a few (30 to be exact) for me.


When we got home, I Googled to find a recipe to preserve them. I found a recipe but surprisingly, it wasn't an Armenian recipe, it was a Greek recipe. Lo and behold, these same delicious nuts are a popular sweet in Greece. In Greece, the are known as *glyko karydaki* (glee-KOH kah-REE-dah-kee) and are made from walnuts from Arcadia (Peloponnese). The recipe is time-consuming since the walnuts have to soak a good while to remove the bitterness so I actually ended up bringing them back home with me before preserving them.

So, as a way to remember the recipe and process that I went through to make the glyko karythi, I'm noting it down here.

Important Note:  The one key ingredient that you will need is quick lime, commonly called pickling lime.  I ordered my from Amazon.com - a brand called "Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime".  There are recipes that either don't include the lime or use lemon juice instead but what the lime does is keep the nuts, at least the interior shell part, crunchy and that's the texture you want to have.  So, worth purchasing.

Step 1.  With gloves on, peel the skin of the walnut.   

Note: The green skin of the raw walnuts will stain hands, clothing, and possibly work surfaces. So wear rubber or plastic gloves and cover work surfaces whenever you're handling the walnuts.


Step 2.  Pierce the walnuts with a knitting needle or skewer all the way through, top to bottom.


Step 3.  Cover the walnuts with plenty of water and leave them to soak for at least a week, changing out the water out at least twice a day.  During the first few days, I was changing out water several times a day - whenever the water got too brown.

As the walnuts soak, they begin to change from their lovely shade of green to looking rotten.  That's to expected so continue on.  The photo below was taken less than 24 hours after the one above.


At the end of the week long soaking period, the nuts will pretty be colored shades of brown and black.  Not looking appetizing.


Step 4.  Rinse the walnuts well and add them to the lime solution.  Soak in the lime solution for 6 hours.

Recipe for the lime solution:  1/2 cup of lime to a gallon of water.  For the 30 walnuts, I just needed the gallon which I measured out as 16 cups of water.


Step 5.  Remove the walnuts from the lime solution and rinse well.  It's amazing how the lime solution transforms the look of the walnuts.  They come out black and shiny; looking like oversized olives!

Step 6.  Leave the walnuts to soak in fresh water for at least another 5 hours.


Step 7.  Prepare a simple syrup - a cup of sugar to a cup of water.  For the 30 walnuts, I made 5 cups of simple syrup.

Step 8.  Boil the walnuts in the syrup for 1/2 hour, leaving the lid off and then allow to cool for several hours.  Repeat this boiling and cooling process at least 2 times. 


Notes:
1.  Several recipes that I read had you repeating this process at least 8 times just to thicken the syrup but I think if you do it for that long, you'll end up with  mushy walnuts.   If you want thicker syrup then I would recommend thickening it slightly before adding the walnuts.  I opted for a thinner syrup.

So, when is the syrup ready?  Traditionally, to test for thickness, drop a small amount of syrup on a plate. Touch it with the back of a metal spoon and lift the spoon. If "threads" appear, the syrup is ready.

2.  During the final boil, you can also add in spices.  Traditionally it would be cinnamon and cloves.  For 5 cups, you would use 2 cinnamon sticks and about 16 whole cloves.


3.  I suggest testing the walnuts for doneness after the 2nd boiling.  To test, take a skewer or pointed end toothpick and pierce the nut.  If it goes through easily, you're done.

Step 9.  When the walnuts are finished cooking, store them in sterilized jars.  I just took mason jars, the lids and a pair of kitchen tongs and boiled them in hot water for 10 minutes.  After I put the nuts in the jars and puts the lids on, I then returned them to the hot water for 5 minutes, essentially doing a partial canning.

With 30 walnuts, I ended up with 2 full mason jars and a small  plastic containers worth.  As of the date of this posting, the small container's worth is already gone.  I have to say, my sugared walnuts are divine!!  Perfect when I want that one bite of something sweet.  The exterior is firm, the shell slightly crunchy and the interior, soft.  I can't get enough of eating them but I'm pacing myself so I don't run out too soon.  Plus, I have to share some with Bro.  I've already told him that we need to forage for more walnuts next year :-)