This weekend I decided to try my hand at making walnut ink from some of the black walnuts that litter our block. One of our neighbors has a tree or two that drops dozens of these things.
I’ve read over several recipes and they all pretty much said the same thing. The husks are most important. Cook them down a lot. Strain out the solids. Cook it down about halfway, sometimes adding some sort of iron (powder or rusted). Stop when dark enough and then strain again.
I enlisted the help of y daughter to gather and husk the black walnuts. She had gathered more than enough, which is fine as we might do another batch. A few were filled with maggots, those were discarded. little thieves, stealing the parts I need.
The nuts we discarded for the squirrels.
We filled a 2 qt pot about 2/3 full. The husks smelled a little like artichokes.
I added enough water to cover the husks and set it to a lite simmer. Just enough for steam to rise, but not enough to trouble the surface of the water. Didn’t want to risk scorching anything. I nursed it along for about 2 hours, adding some water as needed.
And yes, it smelled. Not a house clearing bad, but bad enough that I stopped hanging around in the kitchen.
After the two hours, it was too hot to squeeze and too late in the evening to wait for it to cool so I let it sit on the stove overnight. It was a thick sludgy black brown at this point. Behind the pot, you can see some tests on spare paper.
I was able to get the majority of the solids out. Wore thick kitchen gloves, which helped keep my hands clean. I used a flour sack cotton dish towel for straining. I was left with about 2/3 a pot of liquid.
Time for the second cooking to reduce the amount of water. I didn’t have any special iron sulfate or some such, and I was short on rusty screws and nails, so I used a fire prod that had met the wrong end of a lawnmower. As it had been heavily rusted, I figured it might do the job.
Nice and dark, and about half of what I started with, about 1/3 of a pot.
Strained it twice by taking the same flour sack towel, rinsed well of course, folded in half twice. Final yield was about 24 fluid oz.
The ink itself seemed a bit thin, which called for Gum Arabic. Unfortunately, I only had pre-mixed liquid. Other recipes called for roughly 10% powder oz. to be added.
I added the 2.5 fluid oz. of liquid Gum Arabic and it thickened up a little. I’ll have to see how it behaves over time. Interestingly the ink seemed to darken a bit on the nib. I may need to add more Gum Arabic, but it seemed to handle decently so far. It behaved okay on Pergamenata with a size 5 nib. (~.75mm)