Rich, dense candied walnuts in sweet, runny liquor
The term ‘jam’ can technically encompass all manner of preserves. For us, though, what springs to mind first and foremost is the fruity stuff you spread on toast, or find in the middle of doughnuts. But in Turkey, it’s common to make jam out of all sorts of unusual ingredients—“pine resin, even aubergine,” says Graham at The Turkish Deli, a statement which receives a less than subtle expression of apprehension in response. “It doesn’t sound very pleasant, but it is nice, I promise!”
Whole green walnut jam, however, we can readily get on board with. “This kind of whole nut jam is very common in Turkey,” Graham continues, picking up a jar of what looks like pickled, overgrown black olives. Pop the lid, spoon one out and bite down, however, and you’ll discover something rich, deliciously dense and dripping with sweet, runny liquor.
“With most Turkish jams, including this one, the liquid is much looser than we are used to over here,” he explains. “It’s made with simply sugar, water, lemon salt and green walnuts, which are just walnuts that are picked before they’re ripe. They turn black when they’re boiled, hence their appearance. That’s all that’s in it—everything is natural.”
Abundance of trees
With its abundance of trees, walnuts are easy to come by in Turkey, and they’re a familiar favourite of Graham’s partner, Cimen. “When I used to visit my grandmother we would go picking them and she would make jam out of them. That’s how I remember having it,” she smiles.
“Most of the walnuts are exported, so it’s only really small producers or families that make jam; it’s not something that’s very common. But we have had a few customers ask for it—it will be interesting to see what Market shoppers make of it.”
The jam is produced in Bursa, in northwestern Anatolia. The nuts are picked, peeled and boiled in sugared water in traditional open vats before being sealed in jars. “They are better described as candied walnuts, as they are not what we would traditionally think of as jam,” Graham explains. “The region is actually very famous for its candied chestnuts, known as kestane—these are very similar.”
Sweet and savoury
Walnut jam is often eaten as part of a breakfast spread, alongside other traditional fare such as breads, pastries known as bureks, and cheeses. “Breakfast is about the only time the Turkish mix sweet and savoury,” says Graham.
“We eat it with a dollop of clotted cream, it’s very naughty,” Cimen adds, “but the thing is, the clotted cream that you get here is very different to what we have in Turkey—it’s more buttery and it’s not so sweet, so it actually balances out the walnut jam.”
In the absence of Turkish clotted cream, Cimen suggests pairing it with a young, mild goat’s curd, “or even a scoop of ice cream! It’s not traditional, but it would go very nicely,” she says. “You could also use it in baking—either cut into little pieces, or as an alternative topping to glacé cherries.”