When I was a teenager, I started baking, experimenting with recipes and seeing how I could mix things up a little to turn them into signature recipes. I took a cue from my Ozarks grandmother on one, adding homegrown Black Walnuts to a brownie recipe.
The resulting flavor was a surprise—a pleasant one, because all of a sudden I had a completely new kind of brownie. I found, quite by accident, that Black Walnuts added flavor to a recipe, not just crunch.
As I’ve learned more about cooking over the years, I’ve seen how we tend to use walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans almost interchangeably, as though the subtle differences in flavor don’t really matter. When it comes to Black Walnuts, though, it matters. Fans of the Black Walnut know that there is a distinct difference between an English Walnut and what’s called an American Black Walnut.
This nut has what Hammons Products, the company that harvests the majority of Black Walnuts, calls more “robust, earthy, and piquant characteristics which combine beautifully with sweeter ingredients.”
The Black Walnut actually grows wild in certain parts of the country (Midwest and East-Central U.S.), and is harvested by hand. It’s distinctive for its harder shell and ability to add flavor. That flavor, incidentally, is derived from the roots of the Black Walnut tree, much like how the flavor of wine comes from minerals in the vineyard’s soil.
You can substitute Black Walnuts for English Walnuts or other nuts on a one-for-one basis (one cup is still one cup, for example).
We’re featuring a few recipes just in time for your holiday baking, so check them out at the links below. Be sure to watch our two videos that demonstrate how to make a couple of the recipes as well!
Black Walnut Zucchini Bread – a MUST try!