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shelling hickory nuts

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#1 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 08:58 AM

as you may or maybe not know
hickory nuts are generally not available commercially
because their shells are so hard,
making them expensive to process.
since i have numerous hickory nut trees, at least 3 species found so far,
i've been gathering info
on how best to process them.
i'll share it here for any others interested in living off the land.

Got Hickory Nuts? Here's Kenuche, a Cherokee Hickory Soup Recipe that solves the hand-picking problem.
With a clean towel in a basket or big pot, use a smaller rock to crush nuts on a larger rock. The basket or pot catches the flying pieces. After you have a bunch, pick out the obvious big shell pieces. Pulverise the rest of the shells and meats until this is a crumbly and fine texture. You might want to sift this in a flour sifter, but I just squeeze it all together to form a baseball or tennis sized ball, which can be freezed in aluminum foil. When you are ready to serve it, pour about 3 cups of boiling water over the kenuche ball. Dissovle the hickory nut butter completely, and then add more water to thin it to your preference, warming it on low. As you stir and let it settle, the shell pieces will go to the bottom. (Strain that by pouring your soup into a different pot, thru a course sieve, or just don't serve the last bottom dregs.) Hickory nut soup is called Kenuche and it can be seasonsed with salt and served thick or thin. I like it thin with rice in it. It is very protien and fat rich. Some folks like to add a bit of sugar and serve it as a drink, alternatively. Testimony... Your squirrels will not be happy if you try this, because it is one of the best indigenous foods of the woods, and you'll want more!

#2 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 09:03 AM

My father always kept a pair if "vise grips" ...also frequently called "locking pliers" around to crack hickory nuts with. They work great You can adjust the closing space on them to be a little smaller than the nut and them clamp down on it to crush the shell. With a little trial and error on the size of the clamp space you will be able to get it down to where it crushes the shell quite well but leaves the nut intact most of them time

blanching [soaking] in hot [not quite boiling] water at least an hour
[bad ones will float to top-remove/discard those]
then fully drying a couple weeks
followed by freezing them
before shelling
is recommended by some.

#3 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 09:07 AM

cf. http://www.motherear...side-Story.aspx

Hickory Nuts
To remove hickory nuts in one piece from their shells, hold the nut between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, stem end to the right. Place the narrow side of the nut against a brick, and sharply tap the nut with a hammer at a point one-third the length of the nut from the steam end. With a little practice, you'll soon be turning out more whole nutmeats and fewer fragments.

#4 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 09:15 AM

Facts on Hickory Nuts;

Posted Image hickory Nuts

Background on the Hickory NutSeveral species of the Hickory Nut have been held in high esteem since the settlement of America by the white men. But little progress has been made in their domestication and improvement, except for the pecan which is a hybrid form.

There are ten or more species of the hickory nut. Doubtless no other nut has a kernel with the aromatic properties of the hickory. The cooking flavor is also exceptional. In flavor and quality the
SHAGBARK HICKORY is held in the highest esteem as the choicest of native hickories. The pecan and SHELLBARK HICKORY are a close second.Shagbark Hickory

Posted Image

Shagbark hickory is one of the most abundant hickories in the eastern and central states. it is the fastest growing of the hickories, and probably the most distinctive in appearance because of the long, loose plates of bark. Common names include "scalybark", "shellbark", "upland", and "shagbark". It grows in humid climates and is found on upland slopes and lowlands, near streams and springs.
Native trees begin bearing in about ten years, much later that when cultivated. They will produce nuts for over 300 years. The trees reach a height of 140 feet so they are a towering tree.

Some of the popular varieties of the Shagbark hickory are: Dover, Eliot, Hale, Papershell, Jackson, Kentucky, Kirkland, Leaming, Meridian, Milford, Rice, Swain, Vest, and Woodbourne.

There is a limited commercial market. The nuts are moderate in size and thin shelled. Both humans and wildlife eat them. Red squirrels, eastern grey squirrels, raccoons, and eastern chipmunks all love the nuts. It takes 100 seeds to make a pound of shelled nuts.

The fruit ripens in September and October.. Because the trees are very tall, we often wait until near Christmas for the nuts to fall. Because the nuts often fall out of the shells while on the trees, there is little hulling by hand.

Shellbark Hickory

Posted Image

Shellbark Hickory, whose bark is thicker and hangs on longer. is often confused with the Shagbark Hickory. The nuts are larger, abundant, and have a thick shell. The kernels are sweet, but difficult to crack out in large pieces. The most common cultivars are: Lefevre, Rieke, and Weiker.

Mocknut Hickory The Mocknut Hickory has the largest tree and produces the largest nuts with the thickest shells. Though the quality of the meats is excellent, they are seldom marketed due to the difficult extraction and low cracking percentage. Many nuts are either void, poorly filled during growing, or have other faults. Yield is low.Pignut Hickory Commonly called the oval pignut hickory, red hickory, redheart hickory, and sweet pignut, this nut falls from a lower 90 foot tall tree and is the most commonly found hickory in the Appalachian forest. The seeds are very light and it takes over 200 to make a pound. Although the kernels are sweet, they are too small and tedious to hull and shell by humans so they often are eaten by animals. The hulls do not normally split from the nut, there fore dehulling is a separate operation not usually needed in other hickory varieties. The trees, however, are extremely prolific producers and large quantities of the nut can be raked up and cracked.Bitternut Hickory Sometimes called the "swamp hickory pignut", this is the only hickory found in the northeastern United States. It is probably the most abundant but it takes over 30 years for the tree to produce nuts. They will produce until the tree is 175 years old. Every three to five years there is a bumper crop called a "heavy drop".Hican Hybrid species of the hickory nuts are constantly being tried, and the most common name for a hybrid hickory nut is the HICAN.

#5 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 09:21 AM

Hickory nuts are a wonderful addition to your winter stores, just ask any squirrel! Posted ImageThey are literally packed with nutrition, providing protein, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, potassium, trace minerals and vitamins A and C. They are also loaded with calories as most of the nutmeat's weight consists of high-quality oilreplete with the heart-healthy essential fatty acids.

Hickory trees grow throughout the eastern deciduous woodlands and are fairly common, though one rarely finds dense stands of them. Hickory trees are slow growing and don't begin bearing nuts for 75 years or more. But don't worry, they will live for a couple hundred years beyond that.Posted Image

Hickory trees are fairly easy to identify by their leaves, but their most notable feature, especially on the more sizeable trees, is their shaggy bark. I can easily spot a mature Hickory tree summer or winter by the bark, which cannot be said of most trees in our region.

A heavy-yielding Hickory tree is a treasure indeed and not easy to find. Some of the old farmers in this area have an old Hickory stand on the property that they tend with care and around this time of the year we can find little advertisements for Hickory Nuts for sale. I have even found bags of Hickory Nuts at yard sales being sold in the fall. There's an elderly disabled man not far from here that busies himself cracking nuts for a hobby and I gratefully invest in a supply of these precious Hickory Nuts every year.

Fresh, shelled Hickory Nuts are not cheap! They go for roughly 2$ a cup in these parts (which is comparable to pecans at the grocery store). On the market they sell for high dollar, as much as 30$ to 40$ a pound! Mostly, however, they are a mighty rare commodity to come by. There are no agricultural sources for Hickory Nuts, so any that you come across were wild harvested.Posted Image

Hickory Nuts are probably the best wild nut going. They are closely related to pecans (in fact pecans are a hybridized Hickory Nut) and taste something like sweet pecan-flavored walnuts. Anything I bake with Hickory Nuts turns out extra special good!

If you don't have a good source for pre-shelled Hickory Nuts, you'll have to really be on your toes to find a good tree. It's possible to find one on a hike deep in the woods that is bearing, but I've had much better luck in parks, rural waysides and even graveyards where trees have lots of room to spread out and grow and the ground underneath is cleared of brush and regularly mowed. There are a few different varieties of Hickory, but the only one that is considered bitter and unedible is the Pignut Hickory.

Posted ImageHickory Nuts grow inside thick green hulls, the same as Black Walnuts do, but their hulls are divided into sections and fall right apart when they are ripe so they are far less labor intensive than Black Walnuts. The nutshells are quite hard so you'll need a good set of tools to bust 'em open, and a nutpick besides to dig the meats out. On average, it takes approximately 220 nuts to produce one pound of meat. Time spent to produce this one pound is approximately four hours! You can also store the nuts in their shells indefinitely and just crack 'em as you need 'em.

I store my Hickory Nuts in the freezer to prevent any chance of these precious nuts going rancid or becoming prey to mice or other scavengers. Once I have a store of them in my freezer, I'm ready to bake! You can substitute Hickory Nuts for any recipe that calls for walnuts or pecans. Here are my favorite Hickory Nut recipes (note: you can use walnuts instead of Hickory Nuts if you want to try these yummy recipes out but don't have any of the wild ones.):

Maple Hickory Nut Apple Crisp
Hickory Wild Rice Salad
Hickory Pie
Hickory Sandies

Maple Hickory Granola
Wild Rice Hickory Nut Stuffing

Hickory Nut Pemmican

A high-quality Hickory Nut oil is available on the market with all kinds of health claims attributed to it:

Refined Pure Hickory Oil

It is also possible to tap Hickory trees in the same way that Maple trees are tapped to make a sweet nourishing syrup:

Hickory Syrup

And here's a few hot links to check out for more information on Hickory Nuts:

Facts on Hickory Nuts

Slow Foods USA: Shagbark Hickory Nuts

Gathering Wild Hickory Nuts

#6 Oblivion



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 10:12 AM

Great point about the vice grips.:thumbup:

#7 Hippie3



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Posted 02 October 2008 - 04:07 PM

found 3 more nice shagbark hickory trees today,
easy pickins too right on edge of clearing
filled 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket
with nuts in about 20 minutes
and plenty more,
plus lots of hickory wood too.

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