24 November 2015

cracking hickory nuts for pie

I thought to post this because I read so many tutorials and watched online videos showing different techniques for cracking the nuts open. And what other people said didn't quite work for me. Supposedly there is a very particular spot and if you hit just it right, the nut will fall apart releasing its treasure. I tried many many many times and never could get that spot. So I found a different way but it takes more steps. It was really frustrating until I did one thing: froze them. Put a bag of nuts in the freezer overnight, let them sit out again to room temperature. After that they broke open a lot easier, and the nuts were loosened, not fitting so tightly within the shell. There are so many crevices and contortions in there it's hard to get them extracted otherwise. I used: a hammer, a pick (this one isn't meant to be a nut pick it's really a little skewer) and a pair of needle-nose pliers (to break up shell interiors sometimes- smaller would have been better).
First I hit the nut on a terminal end- stood it on the point or the base, it didn't matter. Not a hard bash, but several firm taps until it gives at the seam. Don't want to crush the nutmeat inside. Opens easy enough into halves like this
sometimes it looks like hearts
Then hold the half sideways and hit it again in the center
if lucky, the half will crack into four pieces.
Sometimes a bit more cracking is needed to get the good stuff out. Or resorting to prying with the pick, but that's really tedious. Lots of times I gave up and tossed the shell piece in the bowl without getting the last little thin bits out.
It can seem a very small result to get from all that.
Cracking them was really a chore. I've only done a third of the total. Way more got discarded for having rotten insides than I expected. Probably a fourth or fifth of what I thought were good nuts, after sorting out the floaters and worm-holes. Maybe if we'd collected the nuts earlier in the season and I hadn't picked up so many that sat on the ground for a month or two... I'm saving the shells, as it's possible to make syrup too.
The nutmeats.
It's very possible I may never do this again... but I told the kids I'd make a hickory nut pie and my youngest is especially pleased with the idea because she is the one who noticed the hickory tree and started picking up nuts in the first place!

So I did it. I made a little pie. I looked at a lot of recipes, they're mostly the same, I kind of combined several. I mainly looked at this one, but used brown sugar cut with flour, and added crushed graham crackers in with the nuts, and layered the nuts on the bottom pouring the melted butter and karo syrup and stuff over. But first of all, roasted the nuts:
Here's a pic just before baking:
A taste test before serving it to more people, as it were.
It was pretty good. Definitely can taste the hickory flavor. Not as sweet as a pecan pie, but I liked that. (It's easy enough to use more sugar, or serve it with cream...)

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