So the other day I collected what I confirmed was Black Walnuts on my property. I bust open the thick, yet soft hulls on each individual nut with a few taps of a sledge hammer – to see how easy/difficult it was – before heading back up to the top of the property with the dogs to collect as many as I could. I mean Black Walnuts – how special and cool is that?!
I filled four large grocery totes with those little gems and attempted to haul them back down to the house. I had one bag slung over my shoulder, and then I had my walking poles with me so I put the poles across my shoulders with a bag on the left end, then squatted down to put the right end of the poles through another bag and tried to stand up – and that’s when I said “who am I kidding?!!” Each bag had to weigh 25 lbs, plus, I had a fourth bag that I would have had to figure out how to carry. Lifting 100 lbs is easy, but to haul it that far is an entirely different (and stupid) story!! Instead, the boys and I walked down to the house and I took the four wheeler back up to the top.
I now sat with my second, much MUCH larger pile of nuts and broke each one open individually with the sledge hammer. Acadia sat right next to me, bored with the whole, long process. When the nuts came out of their hulls, they were covered in a black/brown pith that needed to be washed off. I put them in a large tub of water, which turned black/brown and a yeasty/fermented type of foam formed on the surface of the water. I sat there with a scrub brush and attempted to wash each nut individually. I made it through about ten nuts and I thought “no way! This is going to take me days. There has got to be a better way?!” And then I had the brilliant idea to bust out the power washer. I dumped the nuts on the lawn, killing a few patches of lawn and a bunch of worms in the process, but those nuts were clean in no time.
I laid them out on our wrought iron patio table to dry in the sun, and then that night I covered them with a blanket. I was going to sun dry them for a few days… but the next morning, there was a chipmunk investigating my stash and so I wrapped the nuts with plastic mesh fencing and twine (for ample circulation) and brought them in the house. Next step is to let them age/dry out for the next six weeks and these babies should be ready to eat by Thanksgiving.
UPDATE, November 21, 2011.
I let the nuts air dry in their shells for 4 1/2 weeks. I then layed them in a single layer on baking sheets and roasted five batches at 350°F, for twenty minutes each. Over the course of this past week I have cracked nuts in short intervals (or as long as my back can stand being hunched over). The shells are unbelievably hard and can’t be cracked with a nutcracker. So, I am using a sledgehammer and cracking each nut individually, inside a bag on the ground, to avoid sending sharp shell shards into my eyes, or in the path of my dogs’ tender paws. How the hell a squirrel manages to get inside these nuts is a real mystery??? Once cracked, the nut meat has to be picked out of the shell with a metal tool, careful to pick out all the teeny tiny sharp pieces of shell.
I would say I have invested four hours cracking so far and I have two cups of nuts to show for my efforts. I just weighed the bag and I have 13 lbs. of uncracked nuts left to tackle! My husband said “I would NEVER have the patience to do that.” Luckily, I do.