The black walnut is haunted by its reputation as a tough nut to crack. The die-hards who take on the challenge of harvesting our native walnuts each fall, though, are rewarded with a delicious treat, with a unique, complex, and fruity flavor. Black walnuts make an excellent snack and addition to cookies, cakes, ice cream, and more.
A few years ago, I decided to gather a bucketful of walnuts on our family’s farm. Although the process of collecting, husking, washing, and curing black walnuts is time-consuming, laborious, wet, and messy, I found the work deeply satisfying. That said, I also realized that the nut’s resilient reputation is rightfully deserved. A black walnut shell is built like a tank. Cracking it was my most serious obstacle.
The die-hards who take on the challenge of harvesting our native walnuts each fall, though, are rewarded with a delicious treat, with a unique, complex, and fruity flavor.
Online advice recommended “lightly” tapping the nut with a hammer. I tried it. After pulverizing a dozen walnuts using that rudimentary method, I felt defeated. I went looking for a nutcracker heavy-duty enough to split those sturdy brown shells. My solution, which I settled on after testing several walnut-strength machines, came from a company in Lake Ozark, Missouri, run by retired entrepreneur Basil Bacon, a Navy veteran and former tournament bass fisherman, and his son, Dennis. I was in love from the moment I read its name: “Grandpa’s Goody Getter.”
I was mesmerized by its gold paint job, and its long-levered handle begged for a pull. Clearly, this is no simple kitchen utensil. It is a seriously complex machine—built of sheet metal, strong springs, slide bars, greased cams, cutting rams, cotter pins, jam nuts, and other hardware—designed for black-walnut-cracking perfection. This nutcracker automatically adjusts to any walnut. (It can also handle a pecan or a tough hickory nut.) Pulling the handle engages a slide bar which closes the rams with force. The sides of the shell crack while blades go into the top and bottom. Then, the shell pieces fall away, dropping lobes of nutmeat into your hand.
There are other steps you can take, I’ve learned, to ensure better results: Try soaking the nuts in water to soften the shells prior to cracking and using small shears (included with this nutcracker) to cut any stuck nutmeat away from the shell.
If you forage for black walnuts and you’re still struggling to crack them, or maybe you’re thinking about starting a tradition this year, consider a Grandpa’s Goody Getter. I love mine so much that I own two. Order now to get it in time. Hammons Black Walnuts, the Missouri-based company that supplies the country with wild-harvested Midwestern walnuts, opens its hulling stations next Thursday, October 1.