Autumn is abundant with harvest. Not only from farms and fields, but also the woods and forests.
One fall treat provided by the trees are nuts. Black walnuts were the focus of recent nut searches. These treasures are particularly easy to spot. Bright yellow-green orbs sitting around roadsides, in parks, and nestled in the freshly fallen leaves of the woods.
The black walnut (shown above) is a species of flowering tree in the walnut family - native to Eastern North America. The whole fruit, including the smelly staining husk, falls in October.
With the help of a friend, we were led to a ancient farm in middle Long Island where the trees were abundant and most of the fruit had dropped. We spent several hours collecting the nuts with gloved hands and were able to nearly fill a truck bed with the treasures.
Once back at the restaurant, the nuts were smashed open. The sticky odorous outer pulp was pulled from the nut shell. We were left with almost 50 pounds of peeled black walnuts! From there, the walnuts must be cured or dried until they are ready for cracking and cooking. Can't wait to get a taste of this forgotten delicacy. I just hope the reward is delicious enough to warrant all the hard work that went into their capture. We'll be using a portion of our bounty for a smooth earthy puree. The smooth mixture will be piped into the center of a sea water poached potato for an upcoming tasting menu.
A quick update on Peconic Escargot: The business WILL move forward without the Kickstarter. Thanks to all for their pledges, support, and interest. We can't wait to start providing the world with the finest escargot ever seen. Here's a nice follow-up piece by Edible East End. Stay tuned for more details.
I want to leave you all with a quote from "The Omnivore's Dilemma". A ground breaking book I've simply waited too long to read. These words have echoed in my head since reading them, whilst picking those nuts, and as I begin to plan and build a snail farm.
"...after I realized that the straightforward question "What should I eat?" could no longer be answered without first addressing two other even more straightforward questions: "What am I eating? And where in the world did it come from?" Not very long ago an eater didn't need a journalist to answer these questions. The fact that today one so often does suggests a pretty good start on a working definition of industrial food: Any food whose provenance is so complex or obscure that it requires expert help to ascertain."
Picking those nuts transported me to a simpler time. When ingredients were gathered by hand, processed by hand, and made into wholesome (and delicious) goods for enjoyed consumption. The origin of these ingredients were never questioned. They just...were.
Just got around to cracking the walnuts and boy are they amazing.
We've been smacking them sharply with a hammer and digging the meat from the shell with a small knife. It's a lot of work. Most of them are dried up. About 1 in 10 yields a beautiful nut. But it's ok. These things taste amazing. Woody, and nutty with a very heady funky perfume. Almost like a truffle or stinky cheese. Some very fruit-like flavors going on here also, maybe blackberry? Really incredible.
You'd never be able to finish a task like this without some significant time on your hands.
Worth it? Absolutely.