Thursday, December 10, 2009

Total Walnut Breakdown

So in our recent interview, Terrie asked me if I ever had projects that fail. Answer: YES.

I may have a silly fake sad face in the picture, but these walnuts were a total disaster. I had so many dreams! While staring at my milk crate 3/4 full of these seemingly awesome free walnuts, I thought up all sorts of fun project.

Caramelized spicy nuts, holiday swapping presents, maybe even quick apple-walnut bread using my canned apples which I managed to resurrect after the FAIL post. But it was not to be.

Things were already not looking good after I realized that I had been soaking the walnuts for 72 hours. I had read online that the walnuts would be easier to crack after soaking them for 24 hours in warm water, but my schedule got the best of me, and the walnuts were damp for 72 hours. Uh oh.

After Nick came over with a hammer and pliers, and I grabbed a concrete block from the backyard, we set to work. My kitchen became quite the disaster of shattered shells and nutmeat. I think I almost crushed a fingertip.

The soaked walnuts were definitely damp and smelled kind of like chemicals. If the fact that a dude who spends much of his time recording punk shows in basements and drinking homebrew wouldn't taste the soggy walnut is any indication, that's how gross it smelled. I did taste a tiny bit. For research! It was gross.

So then we tried the walnuts that I hadn't soaked. Equally gross. But in a strange way. We both agreed that the walnuts tasted kind of like crabapples. And chemicals too. Crabapples and Windex. Mmmm.

It occurred to me later that raw nuts are often gross, and they usually are sold after they are boiled and roasted. So who knows. Maybe after roasting these things would have tasted better.

If there was any nut meat in them at all. But check out the photo below: no perfectly formed walnuts in here at all. In these foraged nuts, the shell formed kind of pockets around thin slivers of nutmeat. We tried to dig out some of it with nut picks and got a few measly shards for a ridiculous amount of work. Shards of nutmeat covered in bits of dry shell dust. Mmmmm.


So in answer to your question Terrie, yes! Sometimes projects fail. But I've learned a lot about walnuts and foraging in the process. It was a fun experiment.

And I will never EVER eat a store-bought walnut again without being totally blown away by our modern growing and harvesting methods.


Nick Biddle said...

We're lucky we figured out that whole "genetic manipulation through selective breeding" thing early on. Those nuts were hateful. I just found a bit of shell in my hair.

Kelly said...

Kia ora from New Zealand!

We had a couple of massive walnut trees when I was growing up. Your nuts might have been unripe, but more likely they were crap because they hadn't been cured. My mum ('mom' for you American-types) used to dry them outside on a rack made from chicken wire and scrap wood for a few weeks/months until the outer skins split, went black-brown and mostly fell off. During that time the nuts would mature,ro the shells would dry and the middle bit that separates the nut segments would shrivel back, so it was easier to get at the nuts.

I've never heard of soaking, baking or boiling the nuts, but we did try baking my mother-in-law's macadamias - man, that was a disaster. The one tray that worked was beautiful, but it's a lot of work for a lot of fail. Macadamia shells are incredible - the best method we found for getting at them was roasting the nuts in the shells, then sticking the shells in the gaps in mama'a decorative rubber doormat while we hacked at them with hammers.

Cyndee said...

Darling, those aren't walnuts, they're BLACK WALNUTS!! Totally different. Mother Earth News has lots of ideas for "getting into" them more easily. One that I liked was putting them on the driveway and running back and forth over them with a pick-up truck. I'm not kidding! But they are the Rolls-Royce of walnuts in taste. The outer hulls are also used for dye.

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