I made walnut ink this weekend. It was simple. I don't know what my problem was the first time. I think I got lazy and didn't research anything and therefore didn't cook the walnuts--that is the secret. You take the walnuts and toss them in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for eight hours or so.
Before you look at the walnut mush in the next photo, take a minute to see what pretty ink comes out of the husks, as seen in the photo above.
After eight hours of simmering--four hours on Saturday, then four more on Sunday--this is what the formerly-green walnuts looked like. Yeah, they smelled funky too--kind of a mix between cloves, moldering furniture, and fruit. I took the pot outside when it seemed like the stew was done, and got ready to strain the ink from the husks and nuts.
I poured the liquid through cheesecloth in a strainer, and then composted the solids. Thus far, that is all that I have done to make ink. Other tutorials (I'll list them at the end) recommend another round of straining through a stocking, or adding vinegar, alcohol or gum arabic to the ink, which I have not done.
I got about one cup of liquid from the nuts. I suppose I could have gotten another quarter cup or so if I really wanted to. In the measuring cup, it looked like murky soup. I expected it to make an opaque, dark line when I used it in my nibs.
The official summary of my methods:
- Gathered up black walnuts from my yard.
- Put them--whole--in a stainless steel pot and added water to cover the nuts.
- Brought the nuts and water to a boil.
- Simmered the walnuts on low, covered, for four hours. (Why four hours? That's how much time I had at home before our afternoon engagement). Turned off the pot and let it sit overnight.
- Simmered the walnuts for another four hours. Turned off the pot and let things cool.
- Took my pot, ladle, strainer, cheesecloth and glass measuring cup outside to avoid permanent stains inside my home.
- Filtered walnut ink through the cheesecloth-lined strainer.
- Took the ink inside and started writing right away! The entire straining-of-ink, writing-of-letters and photographing-of-results section of this process took place in one hour, while the kids took a siesta. If my letters look rushed, they were!
Here are a few of the many tutorials on making walnut ink.You will notice there are many slight variations in their methods.
When I have time to do more experiments with my ink, I will show you the results! For the time being I am simply happy to have made art out of walnuts in my own yard!