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Uses for hickory nuts

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#1 paulpegg

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 01:12 PM

A few good uses for Hickory Nuts

A few weeks ago my wife and I stumbled upon a giant hickory tree that was dropping nuts like crazy. This is the season and you might still find some on the ground. The squirrels are able to catch them on the way down, but if you can get there first, here are a few ideas.

These nuts are really tough to open. I cut one end out of a large cardboard box and placed a brick in the open end. I held each nut on the brick and gave them a sharp smack with a 16 oz hammer. They fly apart like shrapnel but the other three sides of the box keep them under control. The meats are really hard to get out of the fractured shells so I used the shards to make hickory ice cream and hickory infused butter.

For the ice cream I placed a few cups of nut shards in the milk of a standard base, brought it to a simmer for about 10 minutes and then let it sit overnight. The next morning I strained it, finished the mix and processed it as usual. The first gallon disappeared very quickly.

For the butter I simply clarified a pound of unsalted butter and then added about 1-1/2 cups of nut shards and kept it warm for a few hours. Strain out the nuts and mold the butter anyway you wish. This is great on mashed potatoes or just plain bread as a spread. Saturday I made a potato/celery root puree (2:1 ratio) and placed a tablespoon of the butter in the center of each serving. There were a few confused looks until I explained what it was they were eating. It was another hit after the carrot soup with coconut chutney foam.

I probably could have made this more complicated by extracting the flavor sous vide, but this was quick and simple. Now I am looking for more things to do with these nuts. I have about 25 pounds of them drying in the garage and will crack them open in a few weeks. I will use the spent shells in the smoker for sure. Any ideas will be appreciated.


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#2 sparrowgrass

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 04:54 PM

I haven't done this, but I understand that the Indians crushed the whole nuts and then boiled them, shells and all. They strained and used the broth for soup, and skimmed the fat off the top to use in cooking.

I like to sit on the porch and crack them with a hammer on the limestone step. I generally crack a few, pick the nut meats out, and eat them, until I run out of patience or daylight. My 94 year old uncle gave me a pint jar of nutmeats one year, and I made pralines.

If you can find a big shellbark, the nuts are twice the size of ordinary hickory nuts. Just as hard to crack, however. And don't ever park under one of those in the fall--you will have dents. Ask me how I know. :hmmm:

I use whole nuts in my little smoker box that goes in the gas grill. Very nice--pecans work well, too.

Edited by sparrowgrass, 24 October 2011 - 04:55 PM.


#3 djyee100

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:43 PM

Lucky you. Since hickory nuts are supposed to taste like pecans, I suppose you could sub them in any recipe calling for pecans.

The Shakers cooked with hickory nuts (not to mention other nuts and berries that were common when this country was young). You could check out some Shaker cookbooks and recipes.

#4 DickL

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:54 PM

I don't know how hickory nuts compare to black walnuts in cracking difficulty, but I found a metal vice was a good tool for cracking the walnuts. (Google "bench vice" if you aren't familar with the device.) A vice with serrated jaws grips the nuts well, although the nuts still tend to fly apart when they break, just not so violently as when hit by a hammer.
Dick in Northbrook, IL

#5 andiesenji

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 09:30 PM

The traditional Kentucky Hickory Nut cake.

It's a long, involved recipe so I am sending it to you via PM.
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#6 ruthcooks

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 11:25 AM

Back on the farm, we had a hickory nut tree and always made hickory nut cakes, too. The nutmeats are the devil to pick out, and you might as well be prepared to find a few shells in your finished product.

Hickory nuts do not taste like pecans IMO, I would have no difficulty in telling them apart.

Neither do walnuts and black walnuts taste alike. I will sometimes tolerate walnuts, which I find bitter, but black walnuts taste like aspirin to me.
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