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Using Black Walnuts in Appalachia

using black walnuts

This is the time of the year for black walnuts in Appalachia. Granny has worked all hers up and has been making the best cake ever! I’ll have to share the recipe with you soon.

Today I’m sharing my latest video about you guessed it black walnuts. I also share The Deer Hunter’s great grandmother’s black walnut cookie recipe in the video—oh my they are good cookies!

Do you like black walnuts? It seems people are either plumb crazy about them like Granny and me or they don’t care for them at all.

Go here for the recipe.

Help me celebrate Appalachia by subscribing to my YouTube channel!

Here’s a list of the recent Thankful November winners-if you see your name in the list be sure to email your mailing address to me at [email protected]

The winner of “My Life in Brasstown” is Colleen Holmes who said: “Love your blog. First thing in the morning I read it with my coffee.”

The winner of “Foxfire 3” is William Dotson who said: “When I was little we used to have a homemade sled that Dad used to use to haul feed to the livestock and he had built a box on it, then when we could we would use it for sledding but it was really heavy so the older kids would pull it back up the hill but we sure had a ball riding in the box of it.”

The winner of “Foxfire 5” is Lynn Legge who said: “i would have loved to see a turkey shoot…and also get a chance to visit with everyone…ohh tipper you really spark my imagination. i had to order the doll maker book… really loved it…but was so saddened by what the mom went through…..we dont realize how blessed we really are nowdays… but i really didnt like the ending…dont want to spoil for those who havent been lead by your posts to look up something or pondered over something you wrote.
again i thank you for teaching us your heritage dear tipper
have a very wonderful thanksgiving
sending much love to you all

Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a copy of an eBook I’ve wrote “My Favorite Appalachian Recipes.” To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends November 26, 2020.


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  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    December 2, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    You mentioned “The Dollmaker” – I read it because it’s one of those books that always shows up on the lists of Applachian scholars; Hands down the most depressing book I have ever read. Informative, yes – it shows the dark underbelly of American society during WWII and painfully illustrates how that era completely changed the face of Applachia. It is worth reading, but caveat emptor: it is NOT a happy read. I loaned it to a friend and when she brought it back she said, “I may forgive you for this book someday.”

  • Reply
    November 25, 2020 at 3:29 am

    I found your blog looking for the way my grandma used to can sausage with grease in the jars and turned upside down. You’re definately my new favorite blog ant YT channel!!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    November 24, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you Granny and Tipper for the video on black walnuts. I took in EVERY word and look forward to my first experience next year. We have so many trees growing wild on our property and I’ve hated to see them go to waste (well, except for the squirrels which love them too). Anyway, I really appreciated this video! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 23, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Tipper–I’m mighty late today, but some things which had to be done and done at once got in the way.

    Black walnut hulls are used in some polishing processes I believe. Long ago, when I worked two or three summers in Cherokee as a boy, there were some items of attire (I remember a belt for women) made out of thin slices cut from walnut shells. And of course the wood is very valuable for gun stocks, furniture, and the like. I have a big bookcase made from walnut. It’s so heavy it takes two men to move it but it is a thing of beauty.

    Gene Smith is correct about using the hulls to “poison” fish. I think it actually interfered with breathing rather than poisoning them, but whatever the case, they come to the surface.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 23, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    You can hull black walnuts that the hulls are beginning to loosen on with a pressure washer. Put about a gallon of them at a time in a 5 gallon plastic bucket or tub of some kind and fill the container with water. When it is full put the nozzle of the pressure washer under the water and let agitate the walnuts until the hulls come off. Continuing until the water runs clear makes it easier to separate the hulls from the nuts without staining your hands as bad.
    Daddy cracked out a lot of black walnuts. Mommy cooked with some of them and he sold the rest. He cracked them with a clawhammer on a flatiron turner upside down between his knees. He would sit beside the wood heater for hours upon hours cracking walnuts. I cracked a lot of walnuts too on Daddy’s iron (actually Mommy’s, she ironed clothes with it and one other) before I was married. My parents died before I left home so since one brother and three sisters still lived at home I didn’t take anything of theirs with me. I don’t know who got those flatirons and none of my siblings seem to know either. If I had it to do over, I would have me one or maybe both of them.
    As I said I cracked a lot of black walnuts in my time. Only once in my life did I get out a whole goodie. Lots of halves but only one whole.
    As you probably know walnuts sometimes tend to explode and send shrapnel all over the room. Every time after a walnut cracking session the floor had to be swept thoroughly. Even then occasionally an exceptionally sharp piece of shell would manage to hide and wait for some innocent barefooted boy with an urgent need to get up in the middle of the night and find it.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    I have always eaten and liked black walnuts. I have some in a box in the garage that I may get into later today. My wife doesn’t like them. I think a lot of people only care for the things they grew up eating. If you could see me you could tell I’m not that way. I have enjoyed food from more than 40 countries and am willing to try anything. I once had a collection of Cherokee recipes that have disappeared in one of our various moves. Most included venison but several were for fish. Many included corn and/or eggs.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    I love the ole black walnuts. We use our side by side and go up the road and pick the walnuts up. The squirrels like them to. I guess who ever gets there first. Lol Tipper, I have said it so many times I would love to have your recipes. To add to my collection. It would be so wonderful and great! Happy Thanksgiving Tipper.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    November 23, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    I remember seeing my granddad sitting in the sun on the back steps, cracking black walnuts on a shoe last. Others helped pick out the meats around the heater in the evening after supper as we all listened to the war news (WW II). Those nuts made it into cakes, cookies and banana nut bread, all baked on Grandma’s wood stove, which had two warmers at the top and a water reservoir on one end next to the fire box. I’ve often wondered what happened to that shoe last on which Grandpa repaired shoe soles and cracked walnuts.

    Here’s a footnote: I’ve heard that the crushed leaves and green hulls of black walnut, steeped and stirred in water, make a fish poison. I’m told the Indians discovered this, and caught fish for food by pouring the product into placid waters and collecting the affected fish.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Oh my goodness, I miss the black walnuts. I just have to find some to made those cookies. I would love your recipe book, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Queen
    November 23, 2020 at 11:36 am

    I love your blog and videos so much. The black walnuts bring to mind of when I was a little girl picking them up, hulling them out, letting em dry out and then cracking them on a big rock in front of the fireplace or wood stove…..such great memories, my Mother made such great cakes with those walnuts, we put them in quart jars and she used through the winter when it was cake time………..

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 10:32 am

    There were lots of walnut trees on the old home place in Southeast Missouri. Every fall we’d hit the farm and pick up buckets full. We’d spread them in Grandma’s gravel driveway and let the cars take off the husks. Every afternoon during the fall and winter Grandma would crack a big dish full of nuts, then during the evening she would watch tv and pick out the nut meats. She’d put the nuts in empty coffee cans and store in the deep freeze, to be used in baking or doled out to her daughters. She put them I everything. Personally, I do t care for black walnuts, they taste too strong and over powering to me. But everyone one else in my family loved them.

  • Reply
    Carolyn Kutulas
    November 23, 2020 at 10:22 am

    I couldn’t find the recipe. I love black walnuts too.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I sure enjoyed your video! I know my parents loved black walnuts but I love Pecans, probably because they are easier to get the nut out. Your cookies look wonderful and I’m sure tastes great. I eat walnuts because they are suppose to be healthier than pecans.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Use to be about everyone in the community would be cracking walnuts this time of year which left them with the tell tell stained hands. These days I only know of one who still pursues the task. Old Joe gathers walnuts every chance he gets and you’ll find them in buckets all around his home. From about a month ago till warm weather you will find him hulling out the fruit, which he places in fruit jars. From now till Christmas his driveway will be busy with people wanting to buy them for their deserts. It works out for both parties as it gives him an additional income and his customers look forward to the end results.

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    November 23, 2020 at 9:33 am

    Did you know the largest black walnut producer is Hammon walnuts in MISSOURI? It’s my blacksmith’s favor nut. He especially loves black walnut ice cream, which is easy to find here!
    Happy thanksgiving

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I think I must have picked up a truckload this year and gave plenty to friends. I like to leave them on the road where they fall and run over them with my car for a few days to help remove the hull. The squirrels thank me for making it easier for them to carry. They usually beat me to them unless I work fast. My daughter can not stand the taste of black walnuts. She said they overpower the flavor of everything in a recipe.

  • Reply
    Dolores Barton
    November 23, 2020 at 8:29 am

    I am a lover of black walnuts, also. However, I marvel at how people are able to shell them as they are tough. Also, the stained fingers are earth shaking. However, I would enjoy having a compiled book of recipes, especially for black walnuts. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Sallie Martin
    November 23, 2020 at 8:04 am

    I try to read your email early while everything is quiet. A great way to start my day! Love how you share traditions and ways of those gone before us, as well as, news of today’s world. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 23, 2020 at 8:03 am

    I like both the finding and gathering of black walnuts as well as eating them. Where I grew up there were very few walnut growing in the woods. They were to be found at rhe old house places. To find a walnut was a sign of an old houseplace. For us, we went to those on the Daniel Boone National Forest. In my childhood I didn’t know of anybody who planted them for the nuts, unlike the old timers.

    When my brother and I lived with our Grandma, we would sit together each with our own nuts and hammer and break and eat walnuts or hickory nuts. I suppose we did but I do not recall if we saved nuts to use in baking.

    If I had the room I would for sure plant me some black walnuts, two or three trees anyway.

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    November 23, 2020 at 8:02 am

    My mom picked up black walnuts out of our neighbors yard when I was a kid. She let them dry until black then took the hulls off. My dad had a whet stone and a ballpein hammer to break the shells. He readied the nuts and mom made the best black walnut cake in the world. Alas, the recipe was lost and no one else in the family had it. I remember that taste and the frosting she always put on it. Sadly her recipe box disappeared after she passed away and hasn’t been seen since. We all have suspicions as to where it went but no one wants to say it out loud. Those cookies look delicious. Thank you for this post.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    November 23, 2020 at 7:57 am

    Big on English walnuts here! The first time I “did” them I ended up with stained nails for about 6 months which looked knarly! Then I got wise. They’re delicious toasted with sugar and different spices. One year that was my most talked about Chrismas gift amongst friends who stated they’d never had anything so delicious as a nut snack. I know folks who gather them by truckloads that the nuts go on to become Black Walnut stain for use in carpentry etc. When I put them out in deep winter, animals LOVE THEM as a special treat! This year I didn’t see a whole lot. A walnut tree I’ve loved many years got AXED at a red light here by the city and is now NO MORE! RIP dear, wonderful tree!!!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 23, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Congratulations to the winners!
    My Grandmother and Grandfather were called Granny and Pa Mease. Pa loved Granny’s walnut cookies. I can remember seeing him on his knees in the cellar below their house cracking out the walnuts for those cookies. We all knew he was especially fond of Granny’s Walnut Cookies.
    Cracking Black Walnuts is quite a hard task so you’d have to really like them to go to the trouble!

  • Reply
    Don Tomlinson
    November 23, 2020 at 6:42 am

    I too am a black walnut “nut”. I gather several about every year and store them in onion sacks so air can circulate and keep them dry until I need or have time to crack them out. I was surprised at how well they keep. I have some stored in 5 gallon buckets out in my building that are 10 years old and cracked a few the other day and they’re still good.
    I also ordered a black walnut cracker that sure works nice when you need some for baking. Beats a hammer and brick hands down. Another tool that came with it is a little set of thin nosed side cutters (think wire cutters) that are really handy after you get the hull cracked. Saves having to hit the smaller pieces again with hammer and gets kernels out in larger pieces.
    I’ll finish by saying I use a black walnut cake recipe that you shared a couple years ago and it’s wonderful.
    Happy Thanksgiving from up here in the Shenandoah valley to the Blind Pig gang.

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