Thursday, March 28, 2013

Walnut Oil

Dedou was proud to show us the restored walnut press mill on his property, Mas de Meric. Originally owned by his great grandparents and great uncle, Dedou has lovingly restored and preserved it over the past 30 years. Walnut oil was very important in this part of France during the 19th century. Great groves of trees were planted; many still exist today. Walnuts were gathered by the whole family and cracked by hand. The meats were then placed in the stone basin of this mill. Dedou told us that the top is actually one huge stone. The wheel was then pulled around the basin by a small horse, crushing the nut meats.
The mash was then cooked in this copper pot. The best quality nuts required less cooking time than the poorer quality ones.
The cooked mixture was pressed here and collected....
in a bucket.
The first pressing was the finer quality oil and used for cooking. The second time the mash was pressed, the resulting oil was used in oil lamps. The remaining mash was fed to livestock. It took about 10 kilos of nuts to produce 1 liter of oil.
Today walnut oil is still used in cooking and is a regional specialty in this part of France. I buy mine from an old lady at the Saturday afternoon market. It makes a delicious vinaigrette dressing for salad. I mix it with a little walnut-flavored vinegar I found at the grocery store, salt, pepper, and fines herbs. Then I add my secret ingredient...a bit of wild plum jam that I make myself. Yum! Guess the recipe's not so secret anymore, huh?

2 comments:

  1. Lovely pictures Evelyn. I make my vinaigrette with 50/50 olive and walnut oil, but I shall be trying a bit of jam to take the edge off it!

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  2. We also saw the same walnut press the day we visited the bee house. It must have been Dedou who showed us around then - breathless with enthusiasm! Like Caroline, we make our dressing with 50/50 olive/walnut oil. We also add balsamic vinegar, which is a little sweeter than wine vinegar. But I must try the jam. Kind of sweet and sour, I suppose.

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