Throughout the late summer and well into fall, I pick up black walnuts as they fall from my neighbor's tree. I figured the crop was going to be small but something with the weather, or maybe it was simply the wind, dropped copious quantities of nuts late in the season and I couldn't begin to handle them all.
"What? More?" Mom would say as I brought home another load.
Now, of course, she's happy I did. We began processing the nuts a few days ago.
The nuts are wonderfully meaty and will supply all the black walnuts we'll need for baking in the next year. While we occasionally buy English walnuts, we never buy black walnuts. We can supply our every need from local trees.
During the winter (since late October), the walnuts have been left to dry in two wicker baskets and one plastic container in the garage. I've begun processing the plastic container first and I poured it out onto newspaper on the garage floor so the nuts could have some air.
As you can see from the above shot, some of the husks are showing signs of mold. That certainly doesn't hurt the nut meat inside.
I've begun taking the nuts to our woodpile and hammering the husk there to remove it. The husks make a real mess and they need to be discarded somewhere other than in the garden (some plants will not grow where they've been discarded). So this is my natural workbench where I de-husk eight at a time.
Why eight? It's a number Mom can conveniently manage every day. I am the official "nut buster" she serves as designated "nut extractor".
Once the dry husk is removed, I bring the nuts back into the garage and crack them one-by-one with my vice. I merely crush them so that the meats are visible, drop them into a can and bring them into the house for Mom to work her patient magic. She said she loves this chore.
The nuts, by the way, must be sufficiently dried for this stage. The husk, if fresh (or at any stage except thoroughly dry) will dye your hands and fingers black and the dye cannot be easily removed. After four months sitting in the garage, the nuts are ready to work. Our neighbors sometime don't process theirs until the following year.
Here's a shot of Mom working the nut meats out. She uses a standard metal nut cracker and a pick. It's a bit of a tedious process but the result is plenty of nuts for our baked goods in the year ahead.