Walnut Oil - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Walnut Oil is oil extracted from pressed roasted walnuts and has a light, delicate, nutty flavor.

Walnut Oil History
Historical evidence shows that Walnuts have been in existence for thousands of years. It is believed that the Greeks were the first to cultivate the Walnut, although the Persians were the first to have cultivated the larger superior walnut we still enjoy today. During ancient times, walnuts were used for food, but also as a medicine and a dye for hair, wool, and cloth. Walnuts were introduced to Europe through the Mediterranean. Walnuts became highly regarded in France, where they began cultivating them in the 14th century. By the late 1600s walnuts became a staple in France, and during World War II when food stores became depleted in the small villages of Perigord, France, many families relied upon walnuts from their groves for protein. To make Walnut Oil, the French would age their Walnuts for 2 to 3 months, and then crush them into a paste. The paste was then gently heated to bring out the best flavor of the nuts, which were then pressed to extract the oil. Nearly four pounds of Walnuts were needed to press a quart of Walnut Oil.

For thousands of years, Walnut Oil has been used for a variety of purposes. In addition to use in the culinary world, Walnut Oil was used by Egyptians in embalming their mummies, used for fuel in oil lamps, and in parts of Europe, Walnut Oil was used as a holy oil. European artists even employed Walnut Oil for use in paintings. When mixed with pigments, Walnut Oil was preferred over poppy and linseed oils. Chemical analysis confirms the use of Walnut Oil in the French impressionist paintings of Monet, Cezanne and Pissaro.

Today, Walnut Oil is made in the Perigord and Burgundy regions of France, as well as in California, Australia and New Zealand. Regardless of where Walnut Oil is made, it is usually produced using the European method. Walnut Oil is made by grinding the flesh of the Walnut into a paste. The paste is then roasted and undergoes hydraulic pressing. The steps taken during the production process will determine the quality of the Walnut Oil, and roasting is believed to create a higher quality oil. It is important that Walnut Oil be only lightly filtered so as not to extract too much flavor from the oil, prior to bottling. The unmistakable nutty quality of the oil is preserved when no short cuts are taken during the production process.

Health Benefits of Walnut Oil
Walnut Oil is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower the risk of heart disease, and help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Walnut Oil contains a high amount of monounsaturated oils such as Omega-9 which helps improve blood circulation. Walnut Oil also contains a high level of antioxidants which help fights against free radicals which cause cell damage and aging. Walnuts are particularly dense in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which helps to control the replication of malignant tumors. Ellagic acid also has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Walnuts and their oils are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, Vitamin E, niacin, vitamin C, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. Walnut Oil has also been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

In a study in the Perigord region of southern France, where a rich and fatty diet has traditionally been consumed, it has been found that residents have fewer heart attacks than Americans. At first medical experts attributed this fact to red wine consumption. Red wine is known for its antioxidant qualities that protect heart health. Yet individuals in this region did not drink any more red wine than the rest of Europe. Upon closer examination, it was found that residents of this region consumed Walnut Oil and chopped walnuts in their salads, which helped to lower cholesterol in their bloodstream, thus lowering their risk for heart attacks.

Walnut Oil is known for its rich and nutty flavor. High heat destroys Walnut Oil's delicate flavor and antioxidant qualities, so Walnut Oil is best used on salads, in pasta dishes on grilled fish or meats, as a finishing oil or drizzled on a fresh piece of bread. Walnut Oil is a terrific alternate to olive oil in salad dressings and mixes well with balsamic or red wine vinegars to create a flavorful vinaigrette. Pair Walnut Oil with a soft blue cheese such as Gorgonzola, or steamed vegetables such as fresh green beans or spinach. Walnut Oil is equally delicious when used as a dip for bread or cheese. Walnut Oil is a very versatile oil and transforms ordinary dishes with its delicate yet rich walnut flavor. Walnut Oil has a shelf life of approximately 6 to 12 months, and it is important to refrigerate the oil after opening.

igourmet offers the finest Walnut Oil produced by La Tourangelle, Roland and American Black Walnuts. These producers slowly roast, expeller-presses and then lightly filters their Walnut Oils to create a superbly rich and nutty product. This exquisite oil is best when drizzled on salads, baked into cakes or served with bread.

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