How to Clean & Prepare Black Walnuts
Black walnuts have a delicious meat that is used in cakes, cookies and other bakery dishes, or eaten plain as a snack. Black walnuts have a stronger flavor than standard walnuts available in the supermarket. If your neighborhood squirrels do not steal them all before harvest, you can clean and store your own fresh walnuts for a special organic treat.
Wear a hard hat to protect your head from falling nuts, gloves that will not allow the hull juices to penetrate to your skin, and clothes that you do not mind throwing away. Walnut hulls leave very stubborn dark stains.
To gather the nuts, shake the three branches up and down–as opposed to sideways–to loosen nuts from the branch, or pick up fallen nuts from the ground.
Choose nuts with green hulls. Black hulls may have liquefied near the shell and penetrated the meat.
Spread the nuts on a flat area and stomp or hammer the hulls off, discarding them in a compost pile or the woods. Some people drive over the nuts with their car to knock the hulls off.
Scrub the shells with a wire brush to remove bits of hull left behind.
Rinse in a bucket of water and scrub again.
Dry the shells. Place in a sunny spot where animals cannot get to them. Make sure no shells are touching for maximum ventilation. You can use a herb drier or an unlit gas oven with only the pilot light on. Sun drying may take a few hours, whereas an herb drier or oven will take 24 to 36 hours.
Crack the shell open to remove the meat after an adequate drying period. Allow nuts to cure for at least four weeks for better texture and flavor.
Nuts that will be eaten over a period of a few months can be stored in an airtight container. For longer storage, freezing is preferred.