Nut CrackersBecause Black Walnuts are one of the toughest nuts to crack, there have been a large assortment of inventions created to handle the task. Below you will find examples of many of them.
Impact Crackers780 thousand years ago, people were cracking nuts with stones. We still can. Find a rock with a slight cup shape to it, and a boulder with a similar surface, and the pieces stay together well. This is limestone, but you don't have to know that to crack nuts.
The technique can be improved by surrounding the nut with a belt. The belt limits the depth to which crushing takes place, so it's easier to get large meat pieces. It seems more modern to use a steel mallet, and may help protect fingers a bit, but really, a stone works just as well.
A more precise method is a machinist's vise. This gives perfect control, as a good vise is so rigid that the shell is cracked precisely as much as you wish. Taking your time allows a significant fraction of half-kernels.
A screw was the principle of many kitchen nut crackers made a century ago, when most people collected and cracked their own nuts. This one was made by the Perfection Nut Cracker Company from 1914.
Here is a more ornamental screw cracker. The outside has the shape of half a nut, and was often decorated like the shell of a walnut.
Lever crackersJust about every American with a garage seems to have produced, and patented, a black walnut lever cracker after breaking the first one they tried! Most are based on a huge lever advantage. Bernard Contre offers an inexpensive (and unpatented) double-lever cracker that allows anyone to crack the toughest nuts.
This one (at right) was made (and patented) by Lawrence Hunt in 1982. It, and several similar designs, are still sold. Some are much more elaborate than others.
The easiest small scale way to open black walnuts is by splitting or cutting them. My grandfather Wallace did it with stump and axe, but with the skill of a lifetime splitting wood for a stove. I also use an axe, but not having my grandfather's skill, place its edge on the suture and smack the axe with a wooden mallet.
A cracker that slices walnuts in half was designed and patented by one Gaston Fornes.
Roller CrackersThere are big businesses that crack Black Walnuts. They mechanically sort nuts by size first, then pass them between precisely adjusted pairs of steel rollers. It's the best way for mass production, but takes too much capital and engineering skill for small scale use.
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Updated 3/12/06 • Validated 2/25/06