Cooking with Hickory Nuts (Hickory Nut Milk, that is)

I’ve been wanting to do a post about Hickory Nuts ever since my husband brought a bag of them home (to Los Angeles) after he had visited his hometown in Tennessee. That was over 2 years ago! Now we’re living in Tennessee and have 18 Hickory trees on our property ~ which means LOTS of hickory nuts!!

Hickory Tree in winter

The problem with Hickory Nuts is that they are very hard to open and even harder to pick the nut out, well, nearly impossible. But we figured out a super easy way to take advantage of the free hickory nuts on our property, and get the incredible rich flavor of the hickory nuts that you can use in so many delicious ways!

Lots of hickory nuts on the ground

They’re everywhere!

My husband holding a hickory nut

A piece of the outer shell of the hickory nut

We remove the outer shell and wash the nuts thoroughly.

Bag of Hickory Nuts

We collected a giant bag full of hickory nuts!

My husband smashed the nuts against a board, using a heavy hammer, inside a cardboard box. He did it that way because when you smash them they tend to go flying.

Then I take over… I get my largest pot and fill it 3/4 of the way with the nuts, shell and all. Add water to cover the nuts and turn them on  medium high. When they come to a boil, turn the heat to medium, place a lid on top, and allow them to cook for 4 to 5 hours, stirring every so often (adding more water, if needed).

Stirring the pot of crushed hickory nuts

Stirring the pot of crushed hickory nuts in water

A spoonful of crushed hickory nuts

What you end up with is the most incredible nut broth. The flavor is delicious. It kinda tastes like a rich caramel. The nuts basically cook out of the shells and break down in the cooking process. Pour it all through a strainer, and discard the shells.

Then I started to experiment around with what I could make. I made savory risotto using the nut broth. Just follow the basic instruction for making risotto, substituting the hickory nut broth for the water. Rich, nutty and decadent… the flavor was out of this world!!

Risotto made with Hickory Nut Broth

The next day I decided to make some cupcakes, using the broth in both the cake and the icing. Again, the flavor was wonderful. It’s like nothing else that I’ve ever tasted. You could use your favorite white or yellow cake recipe and substitute the hickory nut broth wherever liquid is called for.

Cupcakes made with hickory nut broth

Hickory nut cupcake with a bite missing

Another dish that I made using the broth was wild rice, with glazed scallops, and I made a Hickory Nut Bourbon Sauce to serve with it. I cooked the wild rice in the hickory nut broth and it gave the rice an even nuttier, richer flavor. The scallops were sauteed over medium high heat in 2 tablespoons of butter, for a total of about 5 minutes. The Bourbon Hickory Nut Sauce that I made to go with this dish was really good. The recipe is below this picture.

Scallops with hickory nut wild rice and bourbon sauce

Here’s the recipe for the sauce that I made for the scallops… which I prepared in the scallop pan (important because it gave the sauce more flavor).

This recipe makes enough for 2 people, or 12 scallops. The recipe can be easily doubled.

Simple Bourbon Sauce with Hickory Nut Milk

4 Tbsp Butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup Hickory Nut Broth
2 Tbsp Bourbon
Pinch of Salt

After you have sauteed your scallops to perfection, remove them from the pan and set aside.
Add the 4 tablespoons of butter, hickory nut broth, bourbon and salt.
Whisk together and cook for about 3 minutes, on low until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken.
Add your scallops back into the pan to coat them.
Serve scallops over rice, with a drizzle of the bourbon sauce around the plate.

This entry was posted in ALL RECIPES, Desserts & Sweets, Entrees, Nuts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Cooking with Hickory Nuts (Hickory Nut Milk, that is)

  1. Pingback: A day of exploring and conversations | Strawbale Studio

  2. Sophie Bjork says:

    This looks amazing! Can you drink the milk? How long does it last and can you freeze it? I’m looking for local Tennessee nut milk options. Thanks for sharing these amazing recipes!

    • Hi Sophie – Yes, you can drink the milk! It’s incredible. Once I made the milk, I made one portion of it sweet, and the other savory. I did freeze some of the sweet one and it froze fine. I absolutely love the flavor. It’s kinda like caramel. So good!

  3. Kathy Jo Gallo says:

    I wanted to thank you for this recipe! We were gifted with a wonderful crop of Hickory nuts last year and while I dearly love the breads and cakes made with the nut meats it truly is a labor of love. I have been trying to figure out how long to cook the cracked nuts to make the “nut milk” I have heard about and have made two small batches that flopped and had given up. Thanks this was a super great post and will be making a batch tomorrow! Everyone here is very excited…Kathy from Duanesburg, NY

  4. Nate says:

    This looks really cool. About the taste, I can imagine its hard to describe, and you mention it’s similar to caramel, but how applicable do you think it is to BBQ type dishes? I love trying new things, and I’m just trying to picture how I could apply this just to test it out for fun. Injecting a pork butt or ribs? Glazing ribs? Do you think this could work? I know I should just try myself, but I was curious about your thoughts or if you had another idea.

    Regardless, I’m really glad I stumbled upon this site. A lot of cool, creative stuff I’m looking forward to trying

  5. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this!
    I am making a pumpkin/hickory soup tonight — I cracked some shagbark nuts from my trees, and tried to smush the nutmeats into a paste, but got frustrated. Instead, I used the immersion blender with some water and it formed a sweet and rich paste. (Next time, I want to make gelato with it!). I added some chicken broth and some roasted pumpkin, and I have to say — kind of tasty!

  6. Stephen Kightlinger says:

    This would be great with my smoked butter.

  7. Pingback: Hickory nut harvest is underway! | Curious By Nature

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