Well this little exercise proved to be extremely simple and quite rewarding. While collecting acorns for my acorn flour experiment, I noticed that black walnuts were dropping as well and wondered how I could make use of them.
For those of you who’ve ever wondered, yes these nuts are an edible variety of walnut, but due to the fact that the outer husks of the walnut are 1.) stinky 2.) hard to remove and 3.) stain basically everything they come in contact with, most people forego the effort of collecting the nuts and leave them for the squirrels. However, I wanted to investigate walnut uses a bit further and after a quick online search found a quick project – Ink!
And I have to admit, the idea of walnut ink fed perfectly into my Outlandish imagination as well. Imagine Jamie and Claire all tucked away on the Ridge for the winter. Jamie slowly penning his thoughts in a letter to Jenny. Claire in her surgery taking notes of her latest pioneering efforts in medicine. When along comes wee Gem chasing Adso through the big house, through the study, then the surgery and the LAST bottle of ink gets spilled. What are the Fraser clan to do? They’re snowed in for the next few months without hope of traveling to replenish their wares. Never fear. Brianna just so happens to have saved a supply of walnut ink. Please continue on with your writings….
Creating walnut ink was actually very simple. Gather your nuts, cover with water, and wait for about a week. I stored my walnut/water mixture in my trusty enamel-coated iron pot, covered them with a lid, and left it in my garage for a week. I know, it sounds like a recipe for a rotten disaster, but as it was quite cool in Virginia in early November, I didn’t have any issues of growing funk. The liquid turned dark within a day and just stayed that way. Absolutely no funky growth!
After the soak was over, I removed the walnuts, and then strained the liquid through a bit of flour sack cloth. I then had to reduce the liquid in the hopes to concentrate the dye trapped within the fluid. I started with about two quarts of water covering the nuts, and slowly boiled the liquid for several hours. Some say to definitely plan to do the boiling outside because of the smell. For practicality purposes, I did a little outside on my grill’s side burner while I was working outside, and then did the rest inside when I needed to be inside. While I wouldn’t say the smell of reducing this liquid isn’t awful, I will say it definitely has a bit of a “whang” to it. A mix of sour, earthy, walnutty unpleasantness. So, in my professionally-amateur opinion, do the noses in your family a favor and just cook it outside. But keep an eye on it; you just want a medium boil.
You will notice that the fluid develops just a bit of a foam to it. As I was planning to again strain the final product through the sack cloth, I wasn’t too worried about skimming off the little amount of foam.
After a few hours, it looked as though I had reduced my initial two quarts of liquid to a little less than half.
I took a quick sample, and then did a quick test of ‘inkiness’ by trying to write with it. Too thin. Back on the heat it went, and cooked until I only had about a cup of fluid left.
From this point, I followed the instructions I’d found from these lovely folks here: http://yougrowgirl.com/make-black-walnut-ink/
and added an equal part of rubbing alcohol to act as a preservative to the ink. I threw a few cloves into each jar to also act as a bit of preservative and fragrance boost.
I handed off the finished ink to my friend Sara, who’s got a much steadier hand than I, and she kindly provided this bit of ink-in-action footage:
Ta-Daaaaa!! A finished product. All in all, this was a fast, fun, and very easy project. Using the ink takes a bit of patience and practice, but the color is a beautiful walnutty-brown (imagine that, right?!) and in the hands of someone skilled, could make something beautiful.