Sunday, November 21, 2010

walnut slugs

I have always had a thing about slugs.

Slugs lived in the woods around my grandparents’ house and I always thought they were absolutely gross. I could handle the daddy longlegs spiders that kept finding corners to colonize. I could handle the smaller spiders that hung around just because they liked the West Coast. But slugs, with their soft antennae and slimy trails, slugs were the one bad thing about Vancouver Island for me.

And then, one night when I was about eight, I dropped my flashlight outside. I knelt down and felt around in the dark for it.

What my fingers found was not the hard, reassuring plastic of my flashlight. It was something soft and squishy and slimy and – it definitely wasn’t my flashlight. Gross. Gross. Gross. I couldn’t wash my hands enough.

Even now, as a semi-fearless adult, seeing a slug makes my face pucker.

That’s why I love these slug cookies. They are everything a real slug is not – pretty, tasty, crisp and definitely, definitely not slimy. In short, they redeem the word slug for me.

I have my dad’s friend Betty to thank for this new definition. Betty shared this old family recipe for slugs with me. She says the slugs had a more appealing name in her mum’s old cookbook, something like vanilla walnut ovals. But her family always made them moon-shaped and called them slugs. Betty grew up in rainy Prince Rupert, and I can imagine they saw enough real slugs to act as models.

The recipe is exactly what a good heritage recipe should be: simple ingredients and a happy, pliable dough that’s easy to shape. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some local walnuts, so I spent a lovely Saturday morning listening to Christmas carols (don’t tell me it’s too early!), cracking walnuts and shaping slugs.

Slugs. My face doesn’t pucker when I see these beauties.

A note about flours:  I have adapted this recipe for the gluten-free people. If you’re not gluten-free, Betty says she has also successfully used whole-wheat flour, instead of regular wheat flour.

walnut slugs

bakes about 40 slugs

1 c. butter
1/2 c. icing or confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla
2 c. wheat flour
            Or gluten-free flours:
            1 c. superfine brown rice flour
            1/2 c. corn starch
            1/4 c. tapioca starch
            1/4 c. potato starch
            1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. walnuts (or pecans), very finely chopped
granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Get an insulated cookie sheet out, or put a regular cookie sheet on top of another cookie sheet to make your own.

Cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla together.

In another bowl, stir flour(s) and salt together. Stir in nuts. Add this mixture to the creamed mixture to form one dough.

Roll dough into one-inch balls; then form short logs with slightly pointed ends. (Not too pointed, or they’ll burn!) Shape into a gentle curve. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. If you are using gluten-free flours, chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 20 minutes. The tips should just start to turn a light golden brown.

Remove from cookie sheet and quickly roll in granulated sugar. Cool on a rack.


  1. The slug recipe is superb--I know, because Betty is my sister, and we all look forward to a parcel containing a tin of slugs at Christmas. Actually, it wouldn't be Christmas without slugs!!!

  2. mmm, slugs. powdered sugar on the shirt...yes!