On Tuesday night, we tried out the “W. O. Weber Black Walnut Cracker.” It looks like this:
A senior citizen at our church heard that we were having difficulty cracking the black walnuts on the farm, so he offered to lend us this cracker. His father, who worked on the railroad, bought it from the Webers who made them specifically for black walnuts.
These crackers were a popular item among the railroad workers, but a Google search didn’t find much about the Webers or the cracker. I looked up the information on the cracker which you can see here:
Zillow says the address pictured still exists. A “W. O. Weber & Sons” company in Pennsylvania, which used to be a machine shop, is still a registered business name here in PA. But even though this is Serial No. 401, I didn’t find any other images of this cracker on Google.
Our biggest concern, however, was if it would crack black walnuts better than Frank’s vise, which is bolted to his workbench in the basement. Tina bravely put a nut in the holder and cranked away, as Vir cheered her on from his chair:
It works! You need to pull the handle with some arm strength, but it crushes the shell around the nutmeat nicely and doesn’t take nearly the strength that the vise requires. The cracker is also more portable than a vise. You want a sturdy base under it (which is why we used the kitchen island instead of the kitchen table), but it produces cracked black walnuts with only moderate effort. Every once in awhile, a nut explodes, so you want to put the cracker somewhere where the fragments can be easily found.
Tina managed to crack a container full of walnuts relatively quickly so that my cousin Ed, pick at the ready, had a pile of jumbled shell fragments and nutmeats to sort through.
With this device, we’ve got the cracking part of black walnut processing down. Now, we need to develop a technique that separates the “break a tooth” hard shells from the “lots of great recipes for edible” nutmeats. If you’ve got suggestions, put them in the comments.
We’ll be taking good care of the W.O. Weber Limited Edition Antique Black Walnut Cracker this November until the black walnuts are processed, then it will go back to its owner. But we’ll definately be bribing him to borrow it for next year’s black walnut processing because it makes the cracking step that much easier. If you’ve come here through Google Images because you found one of the other 400 of these devices, hang on to it because it works and makes your black walnut life easier.
To finish, here’s another picture of Tina (with Vir still on his chair) strong-arming an especially tough nut (which she was able to crack without having to run downstairs to the vise!)
Bring on the black walnut recipes! We’ve got the trees and now we’ve got a working cracker!