Saturday, September 10, 2011
The first batch of walnut ink I started more than a month ago is finally ready to write with.
With my new glass dip pen, I was able to do this entire feather with a single dip in the ink pot. Real walnut ink works much better than the Tea Ink I played with in August.
Back in late July, the walnuts in the neighborhood started falling. So I collected a bagful. It's not the actual nut or nut shells you need for ink. It's the green husks like these. I left them in the garage to ripen and "age" for a few weeks. This is the basic recipe I used.
Then I sat out in the yard (wearing rubber gloves and an apron) and broke them up with a regular old hammer on a flat rock. In this batch, the actual nuts and shells were still soft and green, so they mashed down pretty easily with the rest of the brown matter.
I threw them in the pot as I smashed them on the rock. Then I added enough water to cover the solid matter, threw in a few rusty nails, and started simmering. I thought it would take a lot longer than an hour to simmer away 1/2 the liquids. But that was it--just an hour.
The spoon was stained a rich brown color. I used a brown paper shopping bag to protect the counter next to the stove. I was also surprised at how easy the cleanup was. Although the ink stains hands and skin, it washed off of the counters and sinks easily--while it was still wet.
Here you can get a better idea of the rich red-brown color the un-fermented ink has. This is what's left in the pot after straining out the solids and decanting the liquids into a jar so it can ferment in a dark cupboard for 1 month.
These are the solids left after the first batch of ink. I was able to go another 2 rounds with this batch of walnut husks. Each successive batch seems a little lighter than the previous one.
This is a small jar of the finished ink. It's so dark, it's difficult to get a good picture, but here it is. I shook it up so you could see some of the ink run down the glass. The bubbles leave a neat pattern, too!
The clove oil is a great suggestion, as the ripened walnut ink tends to smell like compost or manure. Definitely smells like something down on the farm.
I tried a second round with another batch of walnuts. This batch was more ripe--when I smashed the hulls off, the nuts were hard and easy to pick out. I just wanted the husks. When I started simmering this batch, I added a few Anise seeds to make it smell a little better.
Now what to do with all this brown gold?