Thursday, March 8, 2012

Late Winter "Foraging"--black walnut (Juglans nigra)

Today Eva and I went foraging--in our basement. A lot of our winter wild food work revolves around processing things we gathered in warmer seasons. We collected these walnuts a year and a half ago (see how small she is!) and dried and stored them in their shells. We have 3 boxes of them awaiting us, and we process them as we feel like it. They are incredibly fresh--no rancidity at all.

Since it was 60 degrees today (!), I figured it would be a great day to smash some walnuts. We have no specialized equipment to crack these infamously tough shelled nuts. We use an old tee-shirt, a mallet, and a block of wood. We wrap the nuts in the tee shirt so that the precious pieces don't scatter about the driveway when we smash them. We lay the tee shirt nut combination on a piece of wood and whack them with the mallet. It is preferable to get a single good whack as you are more likely to end up with several good chunks of nut meat. Too many whacks results in a nut meal flour which cannot be separated from the shell fragments. (I'm not terribly good with a hammar so I know this first hand).

Tonight as we sat around watching Between the Lions, the three of us separated the nut meats from their shells with a nut pick. This is really an essential tool--tooth picks break and butter knives don't fit in the tight crevices. We've tried a lot of common kitchen tools, but the nut pick does what it is designed to do.

A delightful discovery is that Eva loves black walnuts--we keep trying nuts with her, but she has not shown much enthusiasm, but tonight she couldn't get enough. Yay!

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