Margaret’s Black Walnut Celery Gems

My husband’s mother made these tasty nuggets in the autumn of the year. Within the family their appearance elicits the ahhs and sighs of a tradition revered. To those of us who sniff out woodsy scents and flavors like hogs to truffles these are divine. Consider making some one-inch gems for the newly initiated.

Botanist John Tradescant (1608-1662) of Kent gathered native Virginia black walnuts (Juglans nigra) to give to Charles I. Years later Margaret Moser Smith (1919-2007), a Virginia native, made black walnut celery gems for family and friends when the fall crop dropped from the trees around her home in Ivy. The flavor of the nutmeat is redolent of the Eastern forest here mellowed by the sharp cheddar with just enough sweet mayonnaise to bind the ingredients. All is then cradled in a crisp nugget of celery, Charles the First would surely be impressed.

Slicing a tiny slip off of the back of the celery will keep the celery from rocking on the plate.

½ pound (8 ounces) extra sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
3 ounces of black walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
Gently combine all of the ingredients. Be particular not to mash the elements but rather fluff them. Tuck into 11/2 – 2” celery bites. May be constructed ahead of time and chilled before serving. Makes approximately 30 pieces.



Photo © Katharine Pollak Photography

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