My mother loved black walnuts. Whenever she got to Des Moines, this farmwife liked to shop at Campbell’s Nutrition. She knew they’d have bold-flavored black walnuts. Most local stores only carried the more bland English walnuts.
Mom often baked and frosted dozens of her soft black walnut chocolate cookies. She’d freeze cakepans full of them.
I found the recipe in her own handwriting.
Chocolate Drop Cookie from "Tipton Iowa Cooks" (Very good & freezes well) Cream together: 1/2 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1 egg 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 squares melted chocolate Sift together: 1 3/4 cup sifted flower 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon soda Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients. Add: 3/4 cup buttermilk 1 cup nuts (black walnuts are good) Drop by teaspoons on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 12-15 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen. Chocolate icing for Cookies 1 Tablespoon butter 1 square melted chocolate 3 Tablespoons milk 1 cup confectioner's sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla Thin with milk to make glossy & easy to spread. Makes a frosted cake-like cookie. A real favorite of ours. --Recipe from Mrs. Evan Hultman, Waterloo(wife of the Iowa Attorney General)
Mom’s taste for black walnuts went back to the Great Depression, maybe earlier. The Wilson family would gather them in the timber in Guthrie or Dallas County, then dry them outside. Her dad, Clabe, would run the Model T truck over the green husks to loosen them, making them easier to shuck. Under those husks, which would leave dark stains on their skin, were the hard shells that still needed cracked to pick out the earthy bittersweet nutmeats.
When Doris (Mom) was in high school, the family had a pet squirrel one summer. In the fall, Rusty began to spend less time with them, but he’d show up when Doris cracked walnuts on the back step. He was smart enough to help himself to the ones she’d already managed to open.
Rusty is on the fender of the Wilsons’ Model T roaster, featured on the cover of the book. Junior, the youngest brother, is looking down at him.