A couple of months ago, a friend of mine asked me if I was interested in some black walnuts that his neighbor had growing on his property. As someone who forages and gardens, I said, of course, I am interested. This was my first time opening, drying and preserving black walnuts. I thought it would be a fun to give it a try. These walnuts are good to use in baked bread, eaten whole or covered in maple syrup. When I bought the basket of black walnuts home my first thought was ” This is going to take a while!”.
What are Black Walnuts?
They are similar to the milder-tasting English walnut. The black walnut kernel is high in unsaturated fat and protein. The nut meat has a distinct taste. I find them a bit sweeter than English walnuts. Their primary native region is the Midwest and the east-central United States. The black walnut was introduced into Europe in 1629. It is cultivated in North America as a forest tree for its high-quality wood.
Black walnuts consist of two outer shells. One is a soft green shell that can be cut away using a utility knife. The other is a hard black shell that needs to be cracked with a hammer or vise grip.
The process for shelling, drying, cracking and preserving black walnuts
It’s time to remove the green outer shell. Make sure you use a good pair of gloves. If you don’t, your hands will be stained black which is very hard to remove. I wore two sets of gloves. I found that using a utility knife works best. Just score around the outer husk and rip off the green husk. Put on some tunes, have a cup of tea and get shelling.
Once you have all the outer husks removed, it’s time to dry the nuts. Place the nuts on a try or in an onion sack and allow them to dry for at least two weeks in a dry place. I placed mine down in the basement next to my running heater. You can also place them in a sack and allow them to air dry outside. You need to allow the meat to dry in the shell which gives the meat a much better flavor and helps in preserving the black walnuts.
It’s time to get cracking. You can use a vise grip or a hammer to crack the shell. Black walnuts have a much harder outer shell then English walnuts, so a nutcracker will not work. I used a hammer to crack the shell open and a pair of snips to cut the remainder for the shell to remove the meat. This can take some time. I did mine over a few weeks.
Here is where you have a choice of how you want to store your black walnuts. You can freeze them with a Food Saver or place them in a Ball jar and use them in your cooking and baking.
Here is what I made with my black walnuts:
Black Walnuts with Maple Syrup
Total time: 3 Minuets
- 2 cups black walnuts
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- a pinch of salt
Place walnuts in pan on medium heat. Add maple syrup, salt and cook for 2 min until glazed. Remove and allow to cool.
Cranberry Black Walnut Bread
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, ruff chopped
- 1/2 cup black walnuts
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray bottom of 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, stir together orange juice, orange zest, buttermilk, butter and egg. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Stir liquid ingredients into dry with rubber spatula until just moistened. Gently stir in cranberries and nuts.
- Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue to bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes longer. Cool loaf in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool at least one hour before serving.
All the hard work was worth it in the end. Both recipes were delicious! I hope you try harvesting and preserving black walnuts. Check out my other post and see how I foraged for the wild cranberries used in this recipe.
Books I use to identify and preserve my foraged finds:
My go-to foraging book that I use to identify wild edibles.
Learn how to preserve the season’s bounty in this classic primer on drying, freezing, canning, and pickling techniques. You’ll learn everything you need to know to stock your pantry with fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, vinegar, pickles, chutneys, and seasonings.
Are you preserving and harvesting black walnuts? Do you have any black walnut recipes?