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A 'nutty' way to enhance flavor

October 17, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Food editor ( , Weirton Daily Times

October is National Black Walnut Month, in celebration of the harvest and for the array of foods that can be enhanced by the rich flavor that comes from making traditional desserts, baked goods and many chef-inspired creations.

Unlike the English walnut, the black walnut is a wild nut that is natural and highly sustainable. They grow wild across the midwest and are an American tradition for both the annual fall harvest and the bold-flavored nutmeats.

People younger than 65 might not know about the staining effects of black walnuts when the green outershell is removed and the juice from that shell covers your hands and makes dark splotches on your clothing.

Article Photos

FOR NUTTY GOODNESS — Black walnuts can be added to any baked goods to give them an intense nutty flavor. The black walnuts in the basket are from a tree in the McCoy back yard. -- Esther McCoy

It almost has to wear off. No type of cleaning material can remove it in one washing.

Once the staining material is removed the task of cracking the black walnut shell is almost as daunting. It takes a lot of hard hits to crack the shell, and then a nut pick is needed to remove the tasty nutmeat from inside.

For all its work, a black walnut is worth it in taste. And just a small amount of the nut meats can be mixed with English walnuts for a rich, bold flavor.

October is black walnut picking time, and for those who don't wish to go through the aggravation, they can be purchased for $11 per pound, a substantial amount.

Here are some recipes from the American Black Walnut Marketing Board, whose new theme is "Taste the Wild Side of the Walnut Family."

This is a cake that has been a state fair winner and could be a winner in your family and at holiday get-togethers.

Black Walnut

Fancy Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

5 eggs separated

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup black walnuts, chopped fine, or if you like a less strong taste, make it half English walnuts

3-ounce can flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat well. Combine flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and whisk together. Mix in egg yolks one at a time, beating well. Mix buttermilk and vanilla and mix in alternately with flour mixture. Beat well. Beat egg whites until stiff and then add cream of tartar. Fold in with black walnuts and coconut. Put into three 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest on wire rack for 10 minutes and remove from pans. Frost with White Wonder Frosting.

White Wonder


2 egg whites, 1/3 cup

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mix ingredients in a double boiler. Place over boiling water for 6 minutes, stirring with your finger until you can no longer keep your finger in the mixture, 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Beat with electric mixer until icing will hold its shape and fold in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

This recipe is from the 1950s Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.

Black Walnut

Loaf Bread

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons soft shortening

1 egg

1 1/2 cups milk

3 cups flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped black walnuts, or combined with English walnuts

Mix sugar, shortening and egg. Stir in milk. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and stir in. Blend in nuts. Pour into well greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Let stand 20 minutes before baking. Bake in 350 degree oven for between 60 and 70 minutes until wooden pick thrust into center comes out clean. Cut with thin, sharp knife to prevent crumbling.

Note: Three-fourths cup chopped dates or apricots can be added with the nuts. Increase baking time by 10 minutes.

These cookies are healthy for their oatmeal and raisins. Black walnuts give them a bold taste.

Black Walnut

Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups oatmeal, uncooked

1 cup black walnuts

1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips

Mix sugars, egg and butter until light and fluffy. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and nutmeg. Add vanilla, egg, flour mixture and oatmeal and combine well. Add black walnuts and raisins or chocolate chips. Drop by a well rounded teaspoon about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Black walnuts can add a different taste to a streusel-topped pumpkin pie too. Just try it.

Streusel-topped Pumpkin Pie

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie

1/4 teaspoon salt

15-ounce can pumpkin

12-ounce can evaporated milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten


1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons margarine, softened

1/2 cup black walnuts

Combine brown sugar, flour and margarine until very crumbly. Add the nuts and sprinkle on top of pie after baking 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Lower heat to 375 and bake for 25 to 30 more minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

This is an easy bar cookie to make for the holidays. It is from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Fruit Cake Black

Walnut Bars

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cups water

1/3 cups shortening

2 cups raisins

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves, if desired

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons water

2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup black walnuts

Combine brown sugar, water, shortening, raisins and spices. Boil for 3 minutes. Cool and add soda, salt, 2 teaspoons water and blend in flour, baking powder and fold in nuts. Put into 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, cut into squares. Before serving dust with powdered sugar. Makes 24 bars.

This salad was served at a state dinner at the White House at an event honoring President Hu Jintao of China.

Pear and Black

Walnut Salad

1/4 cup black walnuts, toasted

Large bulb fennel, fresh, chilled, cored and tops removed, sliced into thin strips

1/2 red and 1/2 green D'Anjou pear, quartered, cored, cut crosswise into thin slices

1/4 cup white balsamic vinaigrette

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Place fennel, black walnuts and vinaigrette in mixing bowl. Gently toss with hand to combine and coat ingredients. To assemble: arrange equal amounts of red and green pears to form an overlapping ring in the center of each chilled salad plate. Divide the fennel and black walnuts into four equal portions. Artistically mound each portion in center of the ring of pears. Garnish by sprinkling goat cheese crumbles over the salads.

Note: To make the balsamic mixture, mix 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons honey, kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

(McCoy can be contacted at

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