Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mark vs. The Walnuts


As I was deciding on whether to put this escapade on my writing blog, MarkVincentLaPolla.com/blog, I realized that I had the perfect vehicle for this short story. And, since I've been neglecting this blog, I could kill two birds with one walnut.

We have a several walnut trees on our property and this year's harvest was a bumper crop. If you've been here before, and especially if you've been here this this year, you will remember the lawns full of walnuts in the fall and the walkways full of black walnut husks and shells that the squirrels, those litterbugs, left behind.
This year I decided to collect up as many walnuts as I could to cut down on the mess. I harvested northwards of 100 walnuts, some I shucked green as I collected them, and some I put in a bag or a box to let the outer coverings rot so that I could more easily shuck them. First lesson learned: If you shuck the walnuts while they are still green, it's more difficult but less messy. If on the other hand you shuck them after the outer covering has rotted, you will have a goopy, stainy, worm ridden pile of rotting walnut husks to deal with.


The Residue of the Mess.

A walnut, like a coconut, has an outer green shell that covers the nut inside. When the shell is green, it is hard to peel off and smells like Lemon Pledge. As you break the cover and take peel off, the inner nut is revealed. This is hard work. However, if you let the outer cover rot, you can easily take them off but it will be very messy. Kim's assistant assures me that walnut stain come from the walnut juice extracted from the meat. Even if this is true, the outer husk is very black, very messy and very oily and no longer smells like lemon Pledge. Second lesson learned: bit the bullet and shuck the walnut while green or at least put them in a tub of water for a day to soften and then shuck them. Do not let them turn black and rot. It is terribly messy.


Stained Work Gloves

Third lesson learned: Some of the rotting walnuts will dry and that will make them almost impossible to peel.
For all this work, plus all the mess and the clean up, I got a pile of walnut husks in Kim's garden. It may be good biomass that's on its way to being composted but it doesn't looks nice. I plan on raking the husks out more evenly or perhaps burying them. Come the spring, I hope they'll look nicer.

The husks in Kim's garden

And the husks stained the porch. The porch needed to be retained anyway. I think it adds character to the porch.


My Workstation

And this wasn't even the hard work. Now that I have the husks removed, I have to dry them. I heated our two overs to 150F and then turned them off. I put the nuts on sheet pans with two piece of parchment paper underneath them. They're now in the off ovens, drying. At least I hope they are. The next step will be cracking the walnuts.

Drying Sheet One



Drying Sheet Two

The next big hurdle will be opening the nuts. I've read that one of the best ways to open a walnut is by driving over it with your car. These are not the tame walnuts you buy in the supermarket. These are the very hard-shelled wild walnuts of your great, great, great, great grandparents. And I've also read that the best way to get the nutmeat out of the shell is to you a pair of wire cutters. I wish I had a vice or even a vice grip or a channel lock with long handles.

I just hope these nuts are worth it. They better be the transcendental taste experience everyone says that they are.

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