Anyone crack Hickory nuts?

kiendu(WIS z4)July 25, 2007

I've tryed cracking hickory nuts before and gave up. But, I love the nuts and want to try it again this year. Just wondering if there are any tricks or hints that make this job easier? I used a nut cracker and had so many shells in with my nuts it took hours to even get a cup full after picking out the broken shell pieces. Someone mentioned hitting them with a hammer instead of squeezing them with a nut cracker? Anyone a pro at this? I could use any hints or tips... really appreciate it! Thanks!

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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

We had a shagbark hickory when I was growing up, can't recall what my dad used to open them. I harvested black walnuts a few times and had to use a vise to open them. I read where some folks lay them on their driveway, put a board on them and then drive their car on them- never tried that. I tried the hammer thing- shattered the meat into too small of pieces.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 5:08PM
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krimjim(5 WI)

Ha, my family has cracked hickory nuts for many years! We used to pick and shell them, hang in mesh onion sacks until winter. Best cracking technique is a hammer and anvil (old piece of railroad iron). The old lever type cracker works pretty well too. Ohh, the good old days, my father would sell a quart of cleaned nuts at the local bar for $1.00, but that was over 40 years ago! Most of the nuts here in southern Wi have become "wormy", small grubs growing inside the shell, so I gave it up about 5 years ago. Nothing better than hickory nuts for baking or eating raw, lots of work, but well worth it!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 8:18PM
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    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 11:23AM
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hi, i have so many hickory nuts in basement i go picking mostly everyday i have a 10 gals can full now i put all in a big box to dry out is that okay to do? thanks sheila from wisconsin.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 9:57PM
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krimjim(5 WI)

Sheliajean, I always used the mesh onion sacks to dry the nuts, fill them 1/2 full and hang them in the garage to get some air and let them dry out. I never cracked them until late November, they need to be really dry. Darn, I'm really craving them now! As I mentioned in my earlier post, most of the nuts here in southern Wi have become quite "wormy". I just might go nut pickin in the morning, nothin better!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 6:43PM
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cranberry15(Zone 5 WI)

A dollar a pound? No way! I saw someone at the Dane County Farmers Market selling them for more like $12 a pound.
One thing on cracking - try putting them in the freezer (once totally dry) long enough to make the shells more brittle.
Hickory nuts in brownies are the BEST!!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 3:29PM
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Online Mother Earth News had this article on hickory nuts:

I learned a lot here, too!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 3:30PM
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Here I thought Hickory nuts were best in chocolate chip cookies. LOL

Cranberry15, $1.00 a pound, was as stated, 40 years ago. :) Here I know of someone who gets em for $9.00 a pound. Surely it all depends on where you are at, and how much your willing to spend for em.

Going to try some of these ideas, as soon as the nuts dry out. Anything to make it easier, well not necessary easier, but whole halves would be nice, not little pieces.Not to mention less time consuming. Even if do grind/chop em up for the recipes. As for drying them out, all have done is stuck them in cardboard flats and stirred em around each day or so till dry.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 5:08PM
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pondwelr(z5 WI)

Gosh, I have a good friend who tried giving away bags of nuts at the end of her driveway. Nearly no takers. Now she pays a neighbor to haul away the tons of nuts she rakes up under her tree. They get dumped in an empty lot until they rot. Apparently most people think they are more trouble than they are worth. We used to have a huge shag-bark hickory in our lot at our lake house. We did the gathering, drying, cracking thing for two years, and then gave it up. Quite frankly, they werent worth the work.
Squirrels loved them tho., and so did other critters.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 8:48PM
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I have the cure. 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. I love to eat them this way and can crush enough to make carrot cake or cookies with. Yummy...and free too!! My neighbors allow me to pick up nuts from their yards. They think I am 'nuts' to eat them. I can't understand why they don't!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 5:16PM
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My father was very good at cracking and harvesting hickory nut meats. He used the hammer method. He's gone now since 1998, but when we lived on SouthRidge in Minnesota there were hickory nut trees in the woods on our farm and he always had hickory nuts for us to use and eat. After we moved to Eastern Wisconsin he still would bring hickory nuts when he visited his sister in Minnesota. I sure would like to get some of those hickory nuts once again, so if anyone has any to share or sell, let me know. I'll do my own cracking and picking out the nuts.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:50PM
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I have a lot of shagbark hickory trees, and many nuts. My friend told me to boil them and the bad ones will float to the top - toss those. Then lay them out to dry for at least a couple of weeks. Then crack them around November when they are really dry. She thought that you might get 1/4 cup from a pound. Wanted to know if that sounded right. Want to give some to an old classmate of mine, and she wants enough to make a cup. What does everyone think? thanks, Suzanne

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 5:49PM
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It's been a lot of years since I watched my father crack hickory nuts in the evenings, but he'd have them in a 2 or 3 gallon pail. From that many nuts he'd get as much as a whole quart of nutmeats. Weightwise, I have no idea what that many nuts would weigh, but you should easily get a quarter of a cup of nut meats from a pound of nuts. He would spend hours cracking the nuts and picking out the nutmeats just like in summer he'd spend many hours each day picking raspberries from the large patch they always had. I guess with that kind of patience and dedication, it's no wonder he and my mother were married 73 years when he died at the age of 92 in 1998.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 8:28PM
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My girlfriend is taking a woody plants class and just learned about hickory nuts. We live in Michigan, and realized we have a few of them growing right by our apartment complex, so we're thinking about collecting a bunch, and cracking them... Maybe making some kind of pie with them. We already brought one in, let it dry for about a week and then cracked it open. I used a can opener/nut cracker and it didn't work too well, but enough for us to be able to dig a bit of the meat out with a knife. It was really tasty! Almost had a sweet flavor to it. Perhaps we should collect them and then let them dry out till November/December? Thanks for all the information!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 8:58PM
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You can buy a nut cracker on-line specifically for hickory nuts. It works great, but I can't recall the source. I'm sure if you do a search, you can find it. I think it cost around $60. The nuts from our tree have to be picked out in little pieces. It is very time-consuming. I wonder how the Indians did it?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 12:47PM
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Are you people serious?!! Hickory nuts are NOT that complicated! All you guys are on here talking about using a hammer(which will just smash the meat), or a nut cracker, or even running them over with the car!!! I grew up with several Hickory trees in our yard. All of us kids used to gather brown paper grocery sacks FULL of them every year. We would just open them with our bare hands. All you do is take them out of the outside shell, then put two of them in your hand. Close your hand around them and squeeze. 9 times out of 10 they'll crack. Of course you always get a stubborn one but I'm just saying's not that hard!!!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 3:28PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Deep ,very deep Hardonetocomeby,could you possibly make a video demonstrating the "hand open" technic ?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 3:17AM
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I'm new to this whole hickory nut thing. My kids and I have started collecting hickory nuts here in GA for about 1 month now. I have had no problem really cracking them fresh, before drying them (except for my daughter who smashed her finger!). We just use a flat rock and smash them on the sidewalk. Some got smashed more than others, but the success rate of getting to the meat has been pretty good. I have not yet tried to open any of the nuts since drying them. My question is this. If it is so hard to crack them open after drying, why not crack them before drying, get the nut meat out and dry the nut meat outside the shell, when it is easier to get to? It may sound like a stupid question, but I really don't understand why this can't be done. Dry the nut meat outside the shell for a few weeks then perhaps freeze them until further use. Can someone please answer this question for me? I would appreciate it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 7:10PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

It would seem you may have found the answer, Sammy. Maybe there is some after ripening that is recommended for storage purposes? Does the meat from fresh and dried nuts taste the same? I dunno.

So when you speak of "fresh", do you mean open the husks before they split naturally? Or do you mean cracking the ripe nuts directly after removal, without drying them first?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 1:19PM
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I have found a sweet way to open the little critters and get the meats out usually in one piece! I have a 2 &1/2 ton arbor press. I made a little plate on the bottom of the press plate using plastic to cover the steel plate and keep the nuts clean. stand the nut up on the edge, (not the flat side, you will need to hold it up with your hand). then just bring the press down slowly and Wa La, enjoy!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 4:34PM
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Nothing works better at cracking hickory nuts than a Mr. Hickory Nut Cracker. Very powerful, easy to use, and the end result is tasty kernels. This cracker was made specifically for cracking hickory nuts of all sizes and shell thickness. It even shatters black walnuts and butternuts no problem. It has to be the strongest nut cracker out there. I don't recommend doing this frequently but I bent several very thick steel washers like nothing testing its power. A very impressive cracker.They are hand made by Mr. Blankenship. Very good quality and made to last. To get one call Mr. Hickory at (270)-272-7670.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 2:36AM
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Vise grips, cloth bag and a good movie. Nut goes in the bag and keeps shell pieces from flying across the living room. I do the same thing with walnuts. Boiling them first seems to make the shell more brittle and easier to crack. I got enough this year to make two hickory nut pies for thanksgiving. Got more curing in a mesh laundry sack that should be ready around Christmas time.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 4:50PM
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