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.
Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression
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.
I recall when growing up as a kid how my family shucked walnuts much as you described. We’d lay them out in the driveway for several days, and Daddy would run over them on his way to/from work.
If you did it (in the 1960s?), I wonder if people still do it this way.
The cookies do sound good, but they sure are labor intensive!
And also frosted!
Those look so good… I wish I wasn’t a “slice and bake” kind of cook. What I remember most is the divinity.. whenever we went to grandma Kennedy’s at Christmas, someone would always bring over divinity or mom and grandma would make some…..
Oh, I love divinity! Which walnuts did she use in it? Mom used English walnuts for divinity. (Leora called it divinity fudge.) Mine turns out as “spoon divinity.” Too moist but still heavenly!
My dad talked about black walnuts too – collecting them and getting the husks off that left hands heavily stained. Great story.
See what we’ve missed out on?
Thank you for the recipe…looks good. I had 4 huge walnut trees and 1 black walnut (I believe) I loved giving grocery bags full of those nut in the fall for gifts.
I used to LOVE black walnut ice cream. That unique taste. But I don’t know if I could even buy black walnuts if I wanted to. It seems that I after reading a blog post several years ago about a 100 year old recipe involving black walnuts that I did a little search and came up with nothing. They are SO labor intensive.
Try a health food store. That’s where Mom always bought them when she couldn’t find them anywhere else. Black walnut ice cream? That one is hard to imagine!
Oh, that’s a good idea. I can let my fingers do the walking . . . .
The cookies look so good…and with that chocolate frosting! Thank you for sharing. I would like to try this recipe sometime…
Way too much work in that recipe for me! I’ll bet they’re tasty, though. Gosh, I’m so far behind, I haven’t ordered your new book yet. Must get on it.
Just dropping the dough for cookies is too much work for me. If I can’t spread it in a pan to bake (brownies), forget it. Hey, just add black walnuts to a brownie mix!