Every year, our black walnut tree produces dozens and dozens of walnuts. I had heard that you can make ink from the husks, so I collected about ten of the walnuts that dropped early, put them in a plastic ice cream bucket, covered them with water and let them soak. After about a week I opened the bucket, broke up the husks and threw in a handful of rusty screws, which is supposed to make the ink darker, and soaked the mess for another week.
The next step is cooking. Since I didn’t want to stink up the house, I took my Coleman stove out to the back porch, filled it up and dumped the contents of the ice cream bucket into a thrift-store saucepan. I got it simmering and then turned it down just enough to keep it hot but not bubbling and cooked it for several hours.
I took it off the stove and let it cool and then poured it through a nylon stocking into a glass pickle jar to strain out the screws and walnut bits.
I cleaned up the saucepan (using the garden hose) and poured the strained ink back into it to cook it down to the desired color and consistency, testing it with a dip pen, and then strained it once more.
I had about 12 ounces of ink and I added a couple of ounces of denatured alcohol, which will help keep it from growing mold.
There are still a lot of black walnuts where these came from, so I will be doing at least one more batch. I might try one without the rusty screws – apparently the ink ends up a reddish brown color without the iron.
This is a messy project with the potential to stain anything it comes into contact with, so I did all of this outdoors and wearing a pair of hair-dye gloves.