Author Topic: What is the best way to crack hickory nuts, black walnut nuts, and use acorns?  (Read 5325 times)

bigfoot

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We harvested a bunch of them last year, but unfortunately we could only get a few of them cracked and made for a handful of nuts.

It took me like 4 or 5 hours to get a handful of nuts.

I tried microwaving the shells, and it made the shells a little bit softer. Would boiling them in water be better? Can you crack a bunch of them without cooking?



The grocery store varieties all seem like they have the perfect nuts that you can crack.  I didn't even need a tool to crack them. They are so soft, you can just crack them with your teeth.


Unfortunately when you are dealing with foraging edible nuts, I find that they are almost impossible to break open.

heather

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I put my black walnuts in a burlap bag and drive over them.  Not pretty, but effective.

Here is Hank Shaw's method  (i've just cut and pasted the important parts.  If you want to read the whole article, it's here http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/12/black-gold-the-pleasures-of-a-hard-to-crack-nut/68212/:
First you need to harvest the walnuts at the correct stage of ripeness.For starters, walnuts will probably not be ripe where you live until October, so wait until then to begin. November should be fine, too, and you can pick up fallen nuts from the ground around the trees into December, but by then our Little Gray Friends the squirrels will have had at them.

So you're standing at a tree. You see all these forms of walnuts in front of you. Which to pick?

Green ones will most likely still be on the trees. Yes, you can collect them, but they have a surprise in store for you. The beige ones are rotting green ones—they are the hardest to work with, but the nut inside will still be fine. The black one at the bottom is how you will find most of your walnuts: It has its hull rotted and is pretty dry. Finally, if you've had lots of rain, you will find some nuts that will be pre-hulled, like the one under the half-shell. Pick only pre-hulled walnuts that feel heavy for their size, as they will dry out in the shell once hulled.

For the most part, you will need to hull your walnuts. Lots of people say you should just drive over them with a car, but this stains your driveway. Stain? Why yes. Black walnut juice stains like nothing else. And it will not come off with any amount of scrubbing. If you fail to wear gloves when you hull black walnuts, you will have the Black Hand of Death for several days.

Sam Thayer, in his book Nature's Garden, suggests stomping on the hulls in the field to get them off. This works, but incompletely in my experience with Northern California walnuts, juglans hindsii. So I sit outside on my porch with three buckets—one with walnuts in it, one for the soon-to-be-hulled walnuts, and one for the hulls. I then don gloves and use a pocketknife to hull the nuts by hand.

You want a relatively dull knife that you can slice with and not be in danger of it piercing your work gloves. The work can get a little slippery, especially with the green walnuts—remember the surprise? That's it. A half-hulled green walnut is slipperier than goose ^%$# on a doorknob.

This is why I prefer the walnuts with the fully rotted black hulls.

Beware when you are hulling walnuts outdoors. Our Little Gray Friends could be lurking anywhere, just waiting to steal your walnuts for themselves. I use a biological countermeasure to keep the squirrels away (see the photo below).

Once you have hulled your walnuts, your work has just begun. Now you must shell them.

This is the point at which you can kick back a bit. Hulled walnuts store well in the shell, and in fact crack better once they've dried for a few weeks.

Once you start shelling, however, you need to banish from your head all notions that you will be able to crack black walnuts and get those pretty perfect halves you can get with regular walnuts. Won't happen. Bits and pieces are the price of precious black walnut meats.

I crack mine with a hammer, on the concrete floor of my garage. Such force is necessary. I've never heard of a regular nutcracker fierce enough to break a black walnut, although some people in the Midwest, where the Eastern species lives, have created special black walnut shellers. Anyone ever use one? I'll buy one if they work well....

The key to the hammer technique is to use a terrycloth towel to cover the nuts, so the pieces don't fly all over the room. Use a towel you don't care about, as it will get holes. Smack the nut with enough force to break it, but not enough to pulverize the nut; after a few, you'll get the hang of it.

So now you have a bucket of cracked nuts. You're still not done! Now you need to gently remove the meats from the impossibly complex interior of the walnut. I find the best piece of equipment to do this is a stout pair of wire cutters and a nutpick. I use the wire cutters to clip the shells in key spots so larger pieces of walnut fall out. Again, after a few dozen nuts you'll begin to know where to clip. The nutpick's use is obvious. This is tedious work, people. Do it during commercials of your favorite TV show.

Let me tell you before you begin a black walnut adventure that you need to be patient. It took me probably six hours of work to get 15 ounces of nutmeats—although that includes hulling all of my nuts, not just the portion I cracked and picked. But all this work is worth it.

Just the aroma of black walnuts is payment for the effort: They smell toasted without actually being so. And I've already mentioned the flavor, which is so strong many recipes say just half the amount of black walnuts will fully replace the flavor of regular ones. I'm not so sure about that, but you can use a bit less. If you want.
A woman can get more done with a lipstick than a man can with a Winchester and a side of bacon.

English

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When the aesthetics of the meat is not your concern, one method is to wrap the nuts in a cloth and pulverize them with a rock or something. Put the pulverized nuts in water. Shells float to the top.

That's the survival skills method; for when food (even if it's wet or soggy) is the goal (there many ways to dry them out too; roasting or sun drying are just 2 examples).
« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 09:10:04 PM by English »

bigfoot

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They sell black walnuts at Krogers all the time. They sell most of them in the fall.


They seem to do perfectly fine when cracking them. Well it isn't perfect, but a lot of them come up into halves.

bigfoot

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Well the last thing I want is a powder or them breaking into tiny pieces.

heather

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Commercial processors use large steel wheels to crack the nuts, then everything goes through a series of rollers with saw teeth.  Then the nutmeats are graded, sterilized. packaged and transported.  Who knows how long they've been sitting on that refrigerator shelf?  I've yet to purchase any that actually tasted like home picked and shelled black walnuts.
A woman can get more done with a lipstick than a man can with a Winchester and a side of bacon.

heather

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Back to your original question, if you check the archives, there are endless discussions on processing acorns and using them. 
A woman can get more done with a lipstick than a man can with a Winchester and a side of bacon.

bigfoot

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Hammon's does pretty good, at least in my opinion. That's where I usually get them from.





mikeconroy

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Well, where do I start? First, I am in the black walnut capital of the world, Missouri. Thus, I have some equipment available that many others don't. I also have had some experience working the hullers.

Second, the walnuts you are finding in the grocers that are easy to crack are English walnuts, not black walnuts. They are native to Europe, if my meager information is correct. Black walnuts have a much harder and thicker shell.

Third, as eluded to by Heather, the first thing you do with black walnuts is to hull them. This "hull" is a fibrous outer shell around the nut. The best way to remove it is to take the nuts to a professional huller. Second best is to run over them with the car - again credit Heather for knowing this. Most people who do this here, they just through the walnuts out on the ground, but not on a concrete drive (yes, they do readily stain). If you use a bag, go to your grocer and get an onion bag (they will know what you are talking about). Most people here just grab the nuts when they hit the ground (wearing gloves of course), and proceed to hull them even though they are still green. *Note: the fresh juice of the walnut is high in acid. It can leave you with severe chemical burns after a couple or 4 hours - but not so high to be an immediate concern. So wash with soap and water soon after you are done - and DO wear gloves, but not cotton ones, the cheap leather palmed gloves are fine. And totally avoid getting it in your eyes. (this is from personal experience).

Fourth, commercial plants seldom are able to process the nuts from last season, let alone this season. Thus, the nuts sit for a couple of years (protected of course - they have quite an investment in them) before getting cracked. This does make them taste a bit different than fresh, but works fine. As for us, I would suggest you put your walnuts in an onion sack and put them in a protected place (out of rain, sun, and away from squirrels) for 3 to 6 months before cracking. This will make the nut easier to crack and reduce that pesky staining (but not eliminate it). Most people around here who crack their own do so during the winter storms or snows.

Fifth, there are few (if any) nut crackers that will stand up to cracking black walnuts on the market. There are several designs that are adequate, but few that are stout enough to survive a season of cracking. You will want to find someone who can build one tough enough to hold up. And you will want a good nut pick or two (but they don't have to be as stout).

Sixth, you will get some "pretty" nutmeats, but many will be broken. Drying for 3 months or longer does allow for the nutmeat to shrink a bit, making it easier to extract whole. But they all taste as good.

Seventh, the tree and the climate can make slight differences in taste. Sometimes it is sweeter, others it is not. So if you find an excellent tree, mark that spot and revisit it again.

Well, that is all that comes to mind at the moment, if anything else comes to mind, I will revisit my post.
Mike
Technician class KD0NJV

thefeelgoods

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HICKORY NUTS ARE TERRIBLE TO OPEN

i got something to add here cause hickory nuts are "nutz" to try to open
their sections are a maze of fort-knox style structures

without getting into it,  you can experiment with this little tid-bit.

place a hammer in your hand, and hold the hickory nut to your eyes and observe the general shape 360 degree...  there is ONE place on the nut that it the magic spot.Its the only spot that will open the nut up completely.  its amazing ( i read it years ago in an article somewhere) .   practice hitting the nuts in various spots, youll know when you found it...itll be the spot you hit right before you go " OOOOHHH,   ok !! "        just pay attention to your wack locations so you dont instead say  "oh crap ! where did i hit that thing again??""
Pat yourself on the back today...Our founding fathers were part time botanists.