Being Thankful and Cracking Walnuts

November 23, 2012 · 9 comments

I’m currently broadcasting from sunny Anderson, California on this relaxing (definitely NOT shopping-til-I-drop) day after Thanksgiving. Last night’s meal was predictably fabulous: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, fruit, cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potato and carrot dish, and marinated tempeh, followed by apple, pumpkin, and/or berry pie. Probably 90% of it was homemade/homegrown, mostly by my parents, including the heritage turkey.

We’re sharing a rental house with my mom’s family from the Bay Area/Southern California and spending our time chatting (arguing), cooking, eating, playing games, reading books, and basking in the sun. My kids are thrilled to have a whole crowd of adults (and one small cousin) read to them and play hide and seek.

My parents have two huge old walnut trees in their yard. Most years, the nuts get wormy and turn black, and the squirrels haul off the whole crop if there are any good ones left. For whatever reason, this year their lawn was littered with really nice walnuts. My mom collected them, dried them out by the wood stove, and was about to start in cracking them with a hammer. I intervened before she she went to all the effort and bought her a late-birthday/early-Christmas present from Lehman’s. This nutcracker makes cracking walnuts (or any nuts) a whole heckuva lot faster than whacking them with a hammer and then picking microscopic bits of wanut out of the debris. It requires essentially no muscle, and the walnut meats generally remain whole. If you ever need to crack a bunch of nuts, you gotta get one of these things.

My mom, my cousin, and I spent a couple hours in the last two days cracking and picking about 20 pounds of walnuts, and while it did take a bit of time, it was pretty easy and pleasant with good company and good conversation. Now, I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the gallon and a half of shelled walnuts produced by our efforts. If anyone has a great walnut-centric recipe, I’d love to hear ‘em.

Tomorrow, we’re taking a day trip to the Chico Farmers Market and various farmstands in the area. It’s our annual California food buying day, and we’re hoping to come home with several hundred pounds of citrus, nuts, pomegranates, olive oil, and whatever else looks good.

I hope y’all had a great Thanksgiving full of food and loved ones. I know I have so much to be thankful for this year: my health, my house, my family, my personal and professional successes, and a million other things. This is definitely a season when I feel particularly blessed.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee November 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Oooh! I made an Italian walnut cake a few years back for my husband’s walnut loving mom. I didn’t taste it because walnuts give me cankers all through my mouth, but she said it was divine.
I had extra walnuts so I gave them to her by whipping (blending) them up into walnut butter (added a bit of honey and sea salt), filling a 1/2 pint jar, and had her keep it in the fridge for sandwich use.

I don’t have the exact recipe I used (found and lost it somewhere on the internet). But it turned out looking like this one: and I found a similar recipe here:


lydia November 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I bake this in my cast iron skillet and its my husbands favorite cake for his birthday ~


Stephanie November 24, 2012 at 3:48 am

Make Greek Baklava which uses lots of almonds for the filing!


Kristy@SeeMyFootprints November 24, 2012 at 5:17 am

oooh real walnuts! In our summer over here at the mo we had a warm day, then rain/thunder and then some places got hail. Wierd weather leading up to Christmas over here in what’s usually 30-40 degree (celsius) days.

enjoy the cracking and the being together :)


Luckybeans November 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

Have you ever made fesenjoon? It is a delicious persian dish made with chicken in a walnut and pomegranate sauce. There is a good basic recipe here: although we have always used darker meat on the bone as that or game is more traditional.


Sharon Gamroth November 24, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I have really enjoyed your blog for several months now and just wanted to wish you and your family a belated Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. It has been really informative and fun to read your blogs while we try some homesteading of our own on a very small scale.


Mark November 25, 2012 at 7:44 am

Cover walnuts with whipped egg whites and spices of your choice and bake at 300 for 20 minutes. My parents have had a big crop this year in Northern California.


Monica November 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Walnuts are like gold to me; I can never have enough of them, and it’s SO hard to find good ones! Oatmeal-walnut-raisin-fennel cookies are always a bit hit…


Camille November 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Thanks, folks, for your great suggestions. I better get to baking up something good.


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