Black walnuts are among the hardest nuts to crack. They are right up there with hickory nuts and butternuts, but I only have experience with black walnuts. The nutcrackers that abound right now in the stores to use with your Christmas bowl of nuts are not going to do the job on black walnuts. Those nutcrackers are great for English walnuts, which is what you will find at the grocery store. For black walnuts you need a heavy duty cracker. The one I use is the Master Nut Cracker`.
We have a couple of black walnut trees that appeared over the years near our driveway—planted by squirrels is my guess. Eventually, they began to bear nuts and I would think that I needed to learn what to do with them, as I went about a busy family life. In 2008 I finally took the time to harvest them. The harvesting is easy, it’s the shelling that is the trick. To harvest I go out every day or two, collect the green balls that have fallen to the ground and throw them in the driveway. On our regular comings and goings they get run over by the cars, taking those green husks off. I collect the husked nuts off the driveway and let them air-dry—sometimes spread out on the picnic table. After that I put them in a basket, or maybe an old crock without a top, and store them in my pantry. Well, eventually they get to the pantry. First they sit around my sunroom with all the other boxes and baskets of harvest waiting to be threshed or sorted.
I used to borrow my friend Margaret’s nutcracker manufactured by the C.E. Potter Company. She purchased it in 1984. It was from Margaret that I learned you need a special tool for black walnuts. Since the best way to store walnuts is in the shell, shelling them out as necessary, I really needed to get my own. I searched for a nutcracker just like Margaret’s, but it’s not being made anymore. It is likely that you can find one at an antique mall, but when I was looking I didn’t see any. If you find one, grab it up. What I did find in my search is the Master Nut Cracker. It works on the same principle as the Potter. My husband gave me one for Christmas last year.
When I got it I only had black walnuts on my mind and it does a great job with those. I have found that it is also good to use with my hazelnuts (filberts) and peanuts. Usually we just shell out peanuts by hand as an occasional snack. There are times, however, that I want to press some for oil or shell out a quantity to put in a recipe. Since I have this great nutcracker, I decided to try it with the peanuts and it sure saves my fingers.
It is the anvils that crack the nuts and they are concave to insure that everything doesn’t get crushed together—as it would if I just wacked it with a hammer. The Master Nut Cracker has two sets of anvils. The smaller set is stored in holes right on the board that the nutcracker comes mounted on. When I’m shelling hazelnuts or peanuts, I just unscrew the larger anvils and replace them with the smaller ones. At first I didn’t even try my hazelnuts (filberts). My nuts are the native American type and are pretty small compared to the European varieties. However, I found that the Master Nut Cracker, with the smaller anvils installed, can shell all but my smallest hazelnuts. More often than not, the nutmeats come out whole. Find out more about my black walnut cracking experiences at Homeplace Earth.
There is a Chinese knock-off out there that looks like the Master. The one made in China goes by the name of the Duke Nutcracker. You can find information about that with an internet search. As I’m sure you know, Chinese versions are often made from inferior materials, even if they look the same as the original. The place to buy the Master Nut Cracker is from Gerald Gardner who designed it. You’ll have to send him a check and you’ll find his address on his website at www.masternutcracker.com. Happy cracking!
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.