We like nuts. So my inlaws sent us some at Christmas--five bags. One bag contains black walnuts, a real treat. They have a deep winey, earthy flavor--"truffly" as a friend says--stronger than English walnuts. They tend to cost more, but maybe that's because harvesting them is difficult. A neighbor boy where we used to live in Virginia would collect all the neighbors' black walnuts, shell them himself using equipment loaned by a farmer, and sell them back to us for $5.00 a bag.
There is no such enterprising youth up here, so the nuts falling on our heads and littering the autumn lawn in the years since we moved up to Pennsylania tend to be a nuisance more than a blessing, big hard green balls raining down. We have a pile in the back corner of the yard that grows bigger every year. Ignoring the nuts seems sad and wasteful. We did see a black walnut crusher at an Amish store in Indiana, but buying one would be a grander back-to-the-land gesture than we want to make.
So. What to do with these beautiful nuts? John's birthday was coming up, so I decided to make Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze. I toasted the nuts before adding them to the batter. It's a lovely use for black walnuts; their strength is tempered by the spices and lemon. We still have a lot left. Any other ideas?