So, you can imagine how pleased I was when I found these little green fruits in the park. Immediately I remembered the 'black hand' incident and decided to make some walnut ink to use in a quilt. (Did you know... technically walnuts aren't nuts at all, and neither are almonds or pistachios for that matter. In fact they are drupes. Who knew!?)
So when I got home I began my research into how to turn my walnut into ink. I found lots of information scattered across the internet and blended them all together to make my own version of walnut ink. This is what I did.
I searched the local charity shops (known locally as Opp shops) and bought an old saucepan, and I am so glad I did! There is nothing toxic in the walnuts, so that is not an issue - but remember I mentioned staining................ well, my the stainless steel pan is now stained inside too!
I put the whole collection of green walnut fruits into the pan (around 40 or so) and covered them with water. I don't think the quantity really matters, just enough to cover them and let them float a little. (note: they aren't all in the pan in this photo)
I put the lid on and let them simmer really low all day.
By the end of the day they looked like this. The green fruits had all turned black and were mostly quite mushy. I wanted to remove the blackened husks at this point, but I had other things to do, so I just turned off the heat and left them covered on the stove top until the next morning.
Wearing my lovely pink marigolds, I drained the dark brown liquid into an old milk carton for safe storage and set to work removing the now blackened squishy outer husks. As they had been cooking for hours most of them came off really easily, revealing the more familiar walnut shell inside.
NOTE: it is the squishy black outer husk that I am keeping. The walnuts shells from inside I have put to one side. I don't know if they will be edible when they are dried, but I am going to find out!
I put the black mushy goo back into the saucepan and returned the black liquid I had stored in the old milk carton. I then covered the pan once again and let it simmer for another whole day. By now the liquid was looking quite dark indeed and had reduced in volume.
After letting it cool I made a funnel from an old pop bottle by cutting the top section off and inverting it into the base. I wanted something that I could throw away after use and would be big enough to help me with the next step.
I carefully poured the black liquid into my old milk carton again and lined the funnel with a piece of seed cloth - any muslin type cloth or even a pair of old tights would have done. Working in the sink I then put half of the black mushy husks into the funnel and let the liquid drain into the pot below. Next I squeezed the cloth until I got as much of the liquid out of the husks as possible.
I returned all the black liquid I had gathered to the pan for the last time and placed it back on a low heat with the lid off, to reduce.
After about 15 minutes of simmering the ink had reduced to this. Isn't it a beautiful colour?
To help preserve the ink I finally added a small amount (around a teaspoon) of alcohol to the mixture. I used 99.97% rubbing alcohol - but I have read that vodka also works well. Unfortunately the super high strength on my alcohol turned the ink to gel (aagh!!) - so I added a little warm water to the mixture to dilute the alcohol. This did the trick and after swooshing the pan a little the gel dissolved and the ink was liquid once again.
Note: I have read that adding a whole clove to the ink at this stage can also act as a preservative - so I may pop one in. It will smell nice too.
Now I just need to find a nice project to use my ink with!
If you find a walnut tree please do have a go at this - it was great fun to make. There are no toxic fumes or chemicals involved (unless you count alcohol) and in fact, the smell of the quietly cooking walnuts was very pleasant. I am really looking forward to using my ink.
Thanks for reading.