Black Walnuts

There’s a tree in the backyard that drops a ton each year, and we’ve been intending to harvest them and have never gotten around to it. Until now. Two weeks ago we put on the gloves and ripped the squishy husks off a basketload of black walnuts, hosed them off, and set them in the garage to dry. (Got holes in the gloves too. I had brown thumbs until just a few days ago.)

Last night, I cracked open a few to see if they had cured long enough. Oh my, those are tasty. Walnutty, for sure, but with pronounced fruity flavors. I’m thinking they’d be awesome nestled atop a pumpkin bread, but I’d like to hear from anyone else who’s used them before.

They’re so good that I keep it simple. Walnut shortbread, or a sweet quickbread with them in it.

Their flavor is rich and delicious, much different from English walnuts. We had trees where I lived growing up, but boy howdy those things are a bitch to get to.

How much of a pain was the harvesting? We’ve got a tree in the backyard dropping tons of the things (always fun when they hit the porch roof in the middle of the night).

Well, what we did was pick 'em up off the ground, and choose the somewhat softer ones. The greenest ones and anything still on the tree (if we could even reach that high anyway) are too hard to husk. Wear gloves. Sturdy gloves. And old clothing. Anything the husk goop touches will be stained brownish black. Two weeks later, my fingernails are still stained and will just have to grow out. We just dug in our thumbs and pulled the husk off the nuts; then soaked the nuts in a bucket (bad ones will float, BTW) and scrubbed them together a bit to get most of the rest of the fibrousy stuff off. Rinsed until the water ran clear.

We hung them in a wire basket in the garage for two weeks to dry out and “cure.” Apparently they don’t taste good right off the tree. Cracking them is a pain, and messy; first you smack 'em with a hammer and then use a pair of wire clippers to pinch the hull away from the chunks of nut; a regular nutcracker won’t do the job and however you try, you won’t get any nice tidy whole nuts because they grow in weird lobes that don’t pop out of the shell neatly.

In a nutshell (heh) it’s a lot of work. As yummy as they are, I’m not entirely sold yet on the idea that it’s worth it.

I’m thinking that since you are a novice, I need to taste them to see if they are the real thing…:smiley:

Here is the wikipedia article on black walnuts.

Those are Mrs. Mercotan’s hands in the photo, showing what happens when you shell black walnuts.

I ordered some online and HATED the flavour. Glad I didn’t do a bunch of fiddly work - I took em to work and fed the to the parrots. They liked them!

My grandparents summer house in western NY had a black walnut tree handily planted in the driveway ‘loop’ so we just raked all the nuts into the driveway and drove around on them a bit until the husks loosened up and sloughed off. After they dried out in the sun, we cracked them open with a bench vise. Works nicely.

My uncle has a winery in California. They still have about 100 walnut trees on the land. One year they made Nocino a walnut liqueur. I helped with that and my hands were stained for a month.

My family makes a candy called Boston Cream. It’s cooked, as fudge is, and has sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup and such in it, along with chopped black walnuts.

It’s always been black walnuts, never any other kind of nut. I did once make a batch with pecans, to see how different it tastes. Ir was good but just not right.

Boston Cream

3 cups white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, syrup and cream to soft ball stage, in a heavy pan. Remove from heat. Begin beating it, long and hard, until it is thickened almost to setting. This can be done either by hand, if you have a strong arm, or in a standup mixer with a paddle attachment. Add vanill and nuts and spread in a buttered pan. Allow to firm up and cut into small pieces as desired.

This candy is very sweet and very rich. It is a family tradition, and when I was in basic training in the Army, and kind of homesick, I sent my grandmother some cash and asked her to make it for me, to send to me at camp.

Some people (me, for instance) just can’t get used to that strange flavor that black walnuts have. That smell you get from the husks and even the leaves – well, I can abide it as a smell, but not as a taste. But you can make a very useful dye and stain from the husks. What’s annoying on your hands is highly satisfactory on wood.

Ha, that’s almost exactly what my hands looked like.

Those sound a good deal like the Kentucky Creams my mom makes, though they’re different in that they use butter instead of cream and you pull them like taffy. And there are no nuts in them. Hmm…

My neighbor has a walnut tree that’s seems to have dropped them all on my yard. Never thought they might actually be useful. The squirrels are going nuts (ha!) over them though.

Somewhere on this board, I wrote of how we pulled the drainage panels off the bottom of the balcony this summer, and found thousands and thousands of walnut shells. 'Bout time we kept a few for ourselves.

Made a batch of this at home this year-- turned out pretty well!

I csertainly appreciate all the effort you put into getting black walnuts to the eating stage, that’s a LOT of work. I Love black walnuts, they are a very special tasting thing. I wanted some for a recipe and thought I’d have to use an extract and regular walnuts, but I found them in the baking section of Walmart, of all places.

Black walnut ice cream!

Around here, those are made with pecans, and are known as pecan pralines, or just plain pralines. The pecan is the state tree of Texas, and it grows pretty well here. Many older homes have huge pecan trees, and people gather up the pecans each fall and husk and shell them throughout the winter. Some nurseries will shell the nuts for you, for a fee, of course. They have a machine that does it.

My parents had a black walnut tree in Missouri, and would shovel the nuts onto the driveway and drive over them. I’m pretty sure that they put large sheets of cardboard over and under the nuts. But picking up the nuts got to be too hard for them as they got older.