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Tough Nut to Crack

Posted Feb 27 2011 7:14pm

If you’ve been following along, you may recall that I spent some time this fall hulling black walnuts .

These black walnuts have spent the winter curing in my cool, dry attic. Rumor has it that black walnuts are really hard to open. Rumor has it this would be why I’ve been none too eager to get cracking here.

Black Walnuts Curing in the Attic

Come to find out that when you harbor black walnuts and don’t crack them, you’ll be haunted by backyard squirrel ghosts; the spirits of the squirrels that died from winter starvation because you deprived them of all the food they would have otherwise stored for hibernating.

Squirrel Ghost

I can’t make this stuff up, people.

So with nothing better to do on a cold and snowy afternoon, some new “appliances” made their way into my kitchen today.

Vice and Rubber Mallet for Cracking Black Walnuts

That would be a vice and a rubber mallet. Not the first time a rubber mallet has seen my kitchen I’m afraid to say.  But the vice?  Yeah.  That’s a new one.

Turns out it’s not just a rumor that black walnuts are hard to crack. They really are hard to crack – I’m here to tell the tale.

(The squirrel tale?)

I have a new found respect for hibernating squirrels.

(Did you hear that squirrel ghosts? I have a new found respect for hibernating squirrels.)

I got out the vice and mallet only after learning the hard way that you don’t want pound on them with a hammer on a wooden cutting board in an attempt to get them open.

Cracked Cutting Board

Lesson learned.

Instead, put your nuts in a vice (this is where that saying came from, FYI) and tighten down the little jaw thingy with the little arm thingy (I did not get an “A” in shop class, FYI).

Black Walnut in Vice

I’d read that if you can find the seam of the nut shell and line it up parallel with vice grips, it will split open nicely.

See the seam there?

Find the Seam of the Black Walnut

Yeah, me neither. Good luck with that.

Seam searching a bust, tighten that sucker down and get out your safety glasses (nerd alert!) OR take the much cooler, more stylish approach and cover your nut with a towel.  One or the other – you don’t want to take a shard of flying black walnut shell to the eye while you’re being haunted by squirrel ghosts – trust me.

Towel for Safety

Pound on that little arm thingy with your rubber mallet until you hear the sweet sound of nuts cracking.


Commence digging with nut pick.

Commence Digging

Yes, this was as ugly as it looks. Yes, I’m going to keep going until I crack. I guess I figure that if I’m going to consume nuts (and yes, I surely do) the nuts I harvested and stole from the clutches of the now-dead backyard squirrels should be among them.

I’m also thinking that if these walnuts are so hard to break into, there’s got to be a reason for it. I bet there’s something good in there – and I want in on it.

Maybe after months of consuming black walnuts my hair will become bushier and frizzier? My teeth sharper and pointier? My eyes smaller and beadier?

Get Cracking

Or maybe my next post will be titled “How to Recover from Black Walnut Poisoning”. Maybe I better go order an autopsy of those squirrels that are now visiting me in the night.

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