1. If the thick-walled, blackish-green pod won't release the ivory-colored kernel, it's not good to eat anyway.
2. If moisture seeps in, the kernel gets moldy and so does the nut inside. So if the kernel is sprinkled with mold spots, it's not good.
3. If it has just rained and the kernels are only very recently and mildly wet, place them in the oven to dry for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. That will toast them, split the kernels slightly, and scent your whole house.
4. If the nut is spherical it's from a shagbark hickory tree. If it is ovoid it's a pignut hickory. If it resembles a walnut, it's a black hickory. If it's got a green tight-fitting sheath that won't peel off, that's a bitternut hickory and that one is not edible.
5. Do not leave your basket of hickory nuts outside, because in the morning your trove will be depleted.
1. Place harvested hickory kernels in a cool place. Warmth will make them rancid. I keep 'em outside on the porch.
2. Air-dry the kernels for one week. This dries the shell and it's more likely to come off. I do this on a screen.
3. Before shelling, bring the kernels to room temperature. Chilly nuts are far harder to smash and shell.
1. Place four to ten room-temperature kernels in a plastic zip-lock bag. Airborne shrapnel is therefore contained. Zip the bag 99 percent shut.
2. Smash each kernel with rubber mallet. Using a hammer will pulverize them, so a rubber kitchen mallet is the preferred tool.
3. Open the bag, reach in, grab and save the largest nut pieces.
4. When the largest pieces are out of the bag, take out the smashed shells and use a dental tool to pick out the remaining meat. You decide how much picking you want to do. Then empty the bag of shell fragments and start over.
5. Get in a rhythm and you can extract maybe three ounces of nutmeats per hour.
6. Nobody wants shells in their hickory nuts so be careful that what you're keeping is nutmeats only.
7. Keep one bag that you are positive is only large choice nutmeats without a shred of hard kernel, and give this bag to a good friend.
8. Dumping the shelled nutmeats in water to separate them from any hard shell pieces does not work, at least for me.
9. Microwaving does not help the kernels open. Two minutes of microwaving reduces the nice sweet fatty nutmeat to bitter charcoal.
1. Keep hickory nutmeats refrigerated or frozen in their own small plastic bag or clean glass jar with a lid. And eat them. Great in oatmeal, cookies, muffins, stuffing, on ice cream, or just to savor.