lots of rain this year filled the trees with walnuts, there is a bumper crop. a few have started to fall, don't know if the squirrels knocked em down or what but there are still lots in the trees.
how do i get the goodness out of them?
Husk them, done by various methods. If you put them in the drive way and drive over them you will fracture a certain percentage of the nuts and they will spoil during the curing process. I made a drum huller that I hook up to my tractor but you can use anything from stomping on them to peeling the husk off by hand to using a corn shelle, cement mixer with rocks and water depending on how much volume you want to do. Then dump the husked nuts in a bucket of water and throw out any nuts that float, these will be hollow nuts. Then lay the nuts out for a few days in the sun to dry and then put in some type of bag or container that will allow air to circulate through the nuts so they can cure, this will take 6 to 8 weeks, you can cure them in one day if you put them in a dehydrator. I have stored nuts in onion bags and that works well if you can put them were the squirrels can't get to them. I now use metal trash cans with many holes drilled in them to allow air circulation. If you do not store them correctly they will mold.
As far as cracking goes there are a lot of different ways to do this. Again, I do high capacity so I made a huge motorized cracker that is on Youtube at Ray's black walnut cracker. But you can use a shop vice for cracking and there are a lot of different single stage crackers, by far the best I have seen and used is the Master Cracker because you can really fine tune the pressure the best.
I only deal with black walnuts on the small scale, so most of the work is done by hand, or foot in the case of "hulling" the whole thing. I've found that my shoe can do a quicker job of getting the green hull off with a quick back and forth roll, once the covering starts to loosen anyway. Then after curing, I remove the flavorful kernels with a hammer and anvil. Sounds tedious and time consuming and it is... but it's the best way I've found to get them out without crushing and picking through the pieces and biting down on the occasional, incredibly hard, shell piece. A nut pick is quite handy as well, a little practice and you'll get out enough for a snack in minutes. The shell and nut thickness can differ from tree to tree (my favorite 2 trees are loaded this year). Start with the pointy end up if you're going the old fashioned route at cracking like I do, it tends to separate the halves and quarters, rather than crush, just go easy with the hammer.
For hulling, I've used a small hand-crank corn sheller to good effect. I'd like one of the big free-standing flywheel types, but they're rather expensive. People with too much money need them for home decor, it seems. Wear gloves, or prepare to deal with stained fingers. Hulling them while still green will benefit the flavor.
A dedicated walnut cracker is a nice thing to have. They're relatively cheap, in the long run at least, if you intend to shell lots of nuts. I bought one at auction for $15 that has served me well. Don't even try a standard nutcracker.
Alternatively, use a wooden mallet and a concrete block, and just crack the nuts open to allow chickens to pick out the nutmeats. They will go nuts (ha!) for them. A wooden mallet allows you to crack them open without totally smashing them. Apparently this was once common practice among Ozarkers, according to J. Russell Smith in Tree Crops.
If you keep the hulled nuts stored outside, you might choose to harvest the squirrels that will inevitably fatten on them. I never have, as it has seemed too easy, but it's something to consider.
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