I am back to post about the second part of harvesting black walnuts. That is, the cracking and drying process. If you missed the first part on collecting and drying the black walnuts, check out How to Harvest and Dry Black Walnuts. If you’ve already done this, then let’s move on.
Here we are 4-8 weeks later, ready to crack open our dried black walnuts. Once you get the hang of it its pretty easy to get the nut meat out. It’s all in the hammer technique.
Step 9. Equipment
You will need the dried nuts, hammer, small towel, and 2 bowls. Don’t use your best towels as it may rip. I sit on the hard ground in my garage or driveway to crack into the nuts, so I use a bleacher pad to sit on. An extra towel, foam bleacher seat, gardener pad or whatever else keeps you tush comfy and warm will do. Where I am it’s November, and the ground is cold. My mom tells me, “It’s not good for a woman to sit on the cold ground. It’s not good for the female reproductive system”. So here is me spreading my mother’s wisdom… have something to sit on between you and the ground.
Another tool that you may find useful, but is not necessary is a skinny tool like a nut pick or skewer stick to get into those fussy areas where the meat just won’t wiggle out and your fingers are way to big to be useful.
Step 10. Cracking the Black Walnuts
You’ve got your tools all set. Now comes the fun. Place a dried nut on the towel. Fold the towel over to cover the nut. Use your hammer and hit the nut. The towel is necessary because it keeps all the piece from flying around. They are all there in one place and you can easily separate the meat from the hard shell. The idea is not to crush the nut. You want to apply enough pressure for the nut to crack open into a few larger pieces but, not shatter. You’ll get the hang of this as you continue.
So, now that you’ve cracked the nut you can put the meat in one bowl and the shell in the other. The shells can be composted. I had about 25 nuts that I cracked and reaped 1/2 cup of black walnut meat.
Step 11. Boiling the Meat
I hope you have tons of walnut meat. Now, you’ll want to slowly boil the black walnuts. Slow boil long enough for the meat to make it to the top and the liquid is a opaque brown. The boiling process does two things:
1. removes the tannins from the nut that can make it astringent and bitter, and
2. it helps remove the hard shell fragments from your stash of nuts. The heavy shell material stays at the bottom while the meat floats to the top.
Another option is to let the black walnuts sit in water for 4-6 hours. I’ve never used this method, but maybe I’ll give it a whirl next year and let you know about it.
Scoop out the nut meat with a slotted spoon. Place on a towel or paper towel to dry. Discard the liquid and shell fragments. You can use the black walnuts at this point, but they don’t have the crunch. If you want the crunch then you’ll have to dry them in the oven.
Step 12. Drying the black walnuts
You can also dehydrate the black walnuts at this time in a dehydrator. I don’t. I use the oven. Be very careful to not cook them in oven if that is what you choose to use. My approach to drying them in the oven is to set the oven to 400 degrees. Once it reaches this point, I turn it off and put the black walnuts in to dry out. If you need to do this a second time then go for it. If you use this method: REMEMBER THE WALNUTS ARE IN THE OVEN!!! I use this method to dry out herbs as well, and many times I forget I’ve put something in the oven. So set the time for an hour or so and check on them at that point.
Step 13. Storing
The black walnuts will stay fresh in a air tight container for up to a month in your cupboard, about 3-6 months in the refrigerator, or up to a year in the freezer.
Enjoy the process and the yummy goodness of the Black Walnut! To learn more about black walnuts follow my Facebook page, or click on the follow blog button(s) to get journal entries including The Botany of Black Walnuts, The Benefits of Black Walnuts, and enjoy the recipe Balkan Pita with Black Walnuts & Fig.