We’re Really Nuts About Nuts

Last December we posted about using a vise grip for cracking hazel nuts.  It does a nice job, but it’s SLOW.  Looking at our hazelnut bushes this year, it’s apparent that we will have to speed up the process quite a bit if we want to make use of the harvest fully.  I looked at cracking machines online.  The Drill Cracker hooks up to a hand drill to power it, but at $400 (drill not included) it looks to be too expensive for home use.  It also is a bit overkill for hazels and would probably break up the nuts too much.  The Davebilt is a rotary type cracker which looks like it would work well for both acorns and hazels.  But adjusting it to work well would mean having nuts of a similar size, meaning that the nuts would have to be graded or sorted through screens or holes – more work and yet another tool to acquire.  We like the sturdy construction of the Davebilt, and hand operated is preferable to motorized, but for the amount of use we would get out of this we can’t justify the $160 price tag.  Back to the drawing board or the fantasy wish list.

I was pondering this conundrum and thought, “what would the native people have done?”  Probably a wood “hammer” or pestle to impact the nut, placed upon a stone.  That’s what we were told was the method for cracking acorns from some folks who had seen just such nut cracking depressions worn into stones along a hiking trail.

After a bit of experimenting, here’s the latest I came up with for hazelnut cracking: A Steel Plate (ours is 1/8″ thick – it is our cookie baking sheet),
Wooden Mallet,
Rubber Gaskets (recycled from the ends of water filter cartridges, epoxy 2 or more together to get the right thickness.

The nuts usually come out as halves or whole, rarely as small pieces as the rubber gaskets keep the hammer blow from mashing the nuts.  The gaskets also help keep the nut pieces from flying around (mostly).  A towel under the steel plate pads the counter top surface.  If a steel plate is not readily at hand, a piece of hard wood might be a possible substitute – you would have to experiment.  This video shows how quickly the cracking can be done.  Of course, you still have to pick the nut pieces out of the fragments, but that can be done afterwards or concurrently by a second person if you’re in a hurry, and you’d still have to do it with the $400 device!

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