Flavor of black walnut is worth the harvest hassle
September 3, 2013 1:36PM
Black Walnut Burnt Sugar Candy
1/2 cup black walnuts, chopped into small pieces
3 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1 jar (8 oz) marshmallow cream
Line a 8 or 9-inch glass baking dish with tin foil.
In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups sugar and cream to a boil, stirring occasionally. Mixture is ready when it reaches medium ball stage when dropped in water or registers about 235-240 on candy thermometer.
In a skillet, brown 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup water. Stir until syrupy and water is condensed by about half
Pour syrup into first mixture stirring fast to prevent it from boiling over; add marshmallow creme, vanilla, black walnuts, and butter beating until smooth. Pour into foil-lined pan and cool about 4 hours or until firm. Cut into squares and wrap individually or serve as is.
Updated: October 5, 2013 6:10AM
Silent in its reach for ripeness, the black walnut emerges from late summertime and early autumn as perhaps the season’s greatest unsung hero.
Robust and quite unprecedented in flavor, black walnut gets little praise during the time of year when plums, pumpkin and other popular earthy flavors take priority.
In fact, it’s the black walnut that is often scorned. Now is the time when they fall to the ground, dulling the blades of your lawnmower as they embed their hard bodies into every little crevice of the yard. Ripe, they exude a sticky black tar that never seems to wash away from skin or garage floors. For most people, that coveted flavor just isn’t worth the trouble.
It should be worth the trouble — and if you work patiently and wear a pair of heavy rubber gloves, all of that trouble will give forth the most delectable flavor of the season. This is one fallen tree nut that shouldn’t be forgotten.
So unlike its English brethren, the black walnut has a nearly unidentifiable taste, staggering somewhere on the flavor charts between coffee and maple syrup. After all the harvesting is done, the nutmeat makes a delicious headlining role in almost anything: salads, pies, ice cream, bourbon, and of course, candy.
If you start the harvesting process now by collecting the bright green walnuts that have fallen to the ground and letting them ripen to a yellowish green, the hulls will be easy to strip away in a week’s time.
By late September, the shells will be completely dried out and can be cracked to capture the treasures inside. Use this process with caution and protection, though. The recovery time for black walnut-stained hands is a week or more.
The good news is that the black walnut is a bit of a super food. Almost all of its waste can be reused. Compost the hulls until the acidity is gone and save the shells for your winter fireplace. They will burn with a quite ambrosial aroma.
While there are many urbane recipes that feature the complexity of flavors of the black walnut with outright panache, there is one simple yet flavorful classic confection that comes at a period of relief after all of the time and hard work spent harvesting these nuts.
Black walnut burnt sugar candy could be tagged “old-fashioned” for its praline-like consistency. However, its fresh and gourmet flavor make it timeless.
With only six ingredients, this fudgy candy makes an excellent Sunday afternoon project. Chop your walnuts to small pieces for a more universal black walnut flavor. Or, if you prefer a surprise burst of black walnut power, leave them as larger pieces.
This recipe only requires the use of 1/2 cup of black walnuts. But think of that as a good thing. The remainder of your harvest can be used to make this gem again or some of the other more resplendent recipes that feature this unheralded heavyweight.