Processing walnuts reminds me when I was a kid… when my dad made us all help him. I mean all of us, my friends too, whenever they were over. There was a time I felt I was in danger of loosing my friends because of all the “chores” my dad made them help with. It seemed like whenever I had a friend over, it was the perfect opportunity get another chore done, with all the free labor loafing around. Nostalgic moments like this often drives me to do the things I do. I told myself I wasn’t going to step over the walnuts and forget about them this year. So, I grabbed my son (who didn’t have any friends over) and grabbed them all up.
In my family, there was always a bowl of nuts on the table… especially through the winter. Maybe I did it just to have some nuts laying around. Black walnuts have a hard shell that takes a hammer (or a heavy-duty cracker) to bust the shell. I recall using a hammer and my dads anvil to crack black walnuts and tediously pick the nuts out of the shells for hours when I was a kid. But the reward was something else. It is something I crave more now as an adult then I did when I was a kid. Here, in my back yard… the best quality nuts for the taking, and all I need is the desire.
My dad would collect them when they were soft and mushy and would drive over them with the truck to loosen the hulls. I took a more precise approach. Here’s the method I employed. I clamped a drawknife in the vise and rolled the walnut over it to cut the husk in half. Then, using both hands (with latex gloves on,) twisted either side of the hull in opposite directions. The greener ones came right out… the darker, harder ones took rolling them on the ground under my shoe.
Cleaning the gunk off is a multi-day process. Put them in a bucket of water and use a paddle on a drill or something to agitate the goo off. The water will be black. Again, this will stain your clothes and hands. I got some holes in my gloves and had black fingers for weeks. Still on my hands as I type as a matter of fact. Nothing will take the stain out, except time. I took this same bucket of water and tossed all the walnut hulls in it and let it soak for about a week. When it was done… a perfect wood stain. Serious. Try it.
Afterwards, I put them under some screen or wire to let the sun hit them and dry out. You have to keep them under wire or the squirrels will haul them off! After the hulls are clean enough, bring them in side and store them in a cardboard box in the corner… even near the fireplace. The nut will contract in the shell and be easier to get out later when you crack it.
Do this with your kid, but allow them to become bored and don’t force them to appreciate this process like you do. It’s only important to expose them to it, so that one day, they may look back as I have… and maybe take it up on their own. After all, us Morgan’s become a little nuts over time. Take a look at the pictures to see the process.