Hulling Black Walnuts

It’s just a few days to Clyde Martin’s birthday. He was born in 1924. In the fall, he collected walnuts and pecans which he laboriously processed to sell to people for holiday snacks or baking. Gail Martin recorded his process for hulling black walnuts and posted it on the eHow site. Here it is for you to use his know-how.

How to Hull Black Walnuts

My husband is quite ingenious and came up with this method for removing the hulls from black walnuts. It’s a lot of work, anyway that you do it, but the techniques below are the most efficient and least messy way.

Things You’ll Need:

  • silage fork
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • large plastic trash bin
  • rubber gloves
  • a wooden block
  • a cement mixer
  • a rack and tub
  • burlap bags
  • a fan


The black walnuts are falling in our part of Kansas. My husband, Clyde Martin has his own system of gathering and handling this great treasure from Mother Nature. First, we watch for walnuts that have fallen in someone’s yard. Then we stop and introduce ourselves and ask if they would like for us to clean the nuts up for them.

A black walnut in its hull

Inside this hull is a delicious balck walnut


The round nuts can be dangerous to walk upon in your yard; they will roll and could make you fall. They especially make a yard unsafe if there are small children in the home that like to play outside. The black stuff from the hulls can also ruin a good pair of shoes. Or if you are mowing falling leaves, the walnuts can shoot out from under the mower like they were shot from a cannon. Most people are glad to be rid of the unsightly mess in their yard and driveways. Many people don’t have the time or the knowledge to do anything with the nuts but rake them up and haul them to the dump. It is easier to buy the nutmeats from a store.


Clyde scoops the nuts up and dumps them into a five-gallon bucket, using an old silage fork like he used as a kid on his folk’s farm. The wide fork allows the leaves and other debris fall through but the nuts stay on.
When he has a bucket full he dumps them in old zinc tubs he carries in the bed of his pickup. When he has the area cleaned up, he heads for home.
old-fashioned laundry tubs - photo from pixabay

Tubs like Clyde Martin used when gathering black walnuts.


At home, he puts on heavy rubber gloves to protect his hands from the stain of the black interiors and the acidity in the hulls.


Then he goes to work hulling the nuts using a 2-foot long piece of rough cut 4X4 inch wooden block to push each nut length-wise to break the hull that he twists the rest off.
The hull goes into the tall, plastic collapsible tub to be hauled off to the city’s yard waste area. The nut is tossed into the five-gallon bucket.


When the bucket is full, Clyde dumps them into a cement mixer full of water. This is a noisy process but cleans the nuts of all the black debris that is stuck in the cracks and crevices of the nut’s shell. Usually, fifteen to twenty minutes will clean the nuts but some nuts take longer.
Clyde Martin's walnut husking machine, a cement mixer

Clyde’s walnut husking machine, a cement mixer


Clyde dumps the mixer of nuts into a round rack stationed over another tub to drain the water.


The nuts are then spread out on the garage floor to dry. A fan can be used to hurry up the drying process. When the nuts are dried Clyde scoops the nuts into burlap bags and hang them from the rafters where the drying can continue and the squirrels that come to our pecan trees can’t help their selves to our hard earned black walnuts.

I keep track of the donors of the nuts and we return with a thank you gift of fancy nutmeats arranged in a metal tin with lids. We make spiced nutmeats and also chocolate or vanilla coated clusters separated in the tin with the silver or gold foil cupcake baking cups. This usually assures us of a call the next year when the black walnuts come tumbling down.
Tips & Warnings
  •  Use care as the walnuts hull contains a powerful stain.

Making Flint Hills Cheese Soup

flint hills cheese soup pixabay meme gail
This recipe was shared by Gail Lee Martin on the eHow website some years ago.
This cheese soup is a great way to use lots of garden vegetables. Get some at the farmer’s market, if you don’t grow your own. It’s really a lovely soup with the cheese in it. Serve the soup with warm, home-baked bread.

Flint Hills Cheese Soup

* 1 stick of butter
* 1 quart of milk
* 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tablespoons of butter
* 6 tablespoons of flour
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 2 cups cubed cheese
* 1/2 cup chopped onions
* 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
* 1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1/2 cup chopped carrots
* 2 cups chicken broth
Cut the cheese into cubes. I use an American cheese like Velveeta, but you might prefer another kind.
Wash and chop the vegetables.
Make a rich cream sauce by melting 1 stick of butter in a 4-quart saucepan stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups of cheese and the 6 tablespoons of flour.
Gradually add 1 quart of milk, stirring constantly. Set aside (off the burner) when thick.
Sauté the chopped vegetables in the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the chicken broth and cook very little. The vegetables are best a little crunchy. Combine this with the cream sauce.
Flint Hills Cheese Soup Recipe Postcard
Flint Hills Cheese Soup Recipe Postcard
Here’s the recipe on a postcard that you can order and sent to your friends


Cooking as a Stress Reliever

I remember my mom, Gail Lee Martin, reaching for the big stew pot when a heavy snowfall was predicted in Kansas. She didn’t have to worry about running out of food since our freezer was filled with a side of beef and our own chicken and rabbit meat. The cellar contained jar after jar of home canned vegetables like green beans, corn, and carrots.

Making a big pot of beef stew loaded with all kinds of vegetables was a practical response to adverse weather. I found myself doing the same when snow was predicted in Maryland where I lived for 15 years. Now, I’m retired and live in Central Florida so a big pot of beef stew doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response to a hurricane bearing down on your home.

Instead, I dredged out the family recipe for no bake cookies. Not having the right ingredients on hand, I improvised. The results were interesting and satisfied my need to reduce stress by keeping busy in the kitchen.

No Bake Cookies Discovering Mom

The resulting cookies were more blonde than the usual chocolate ones. I may not have cooked the sugar, milk, and butter the right amount of time, as they turned out a little sticky. Still, I’ve ended up with some snacks and for a short time distracted myself from Hurricane Irma.

You can see the usual no-bake cookie recipe in an earlier post.

Here’s how mine looked when they were done.


Cappuccino Date No Bake Cookies 


Heritage Recipe – Turnip Pie

I love to browse vintage newspapers and you never know what you’ll find. Here’s a heritage recipe found in the Perrysburg Journal, an Ohio newspaper.

April 15, 1915 Chronicles of America – Library of Congress collection

The Turnip Pie recipe has these instructions:

Put 2 cups of mashed cooked turnips into a basin, add 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 3 well-beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon powdered ginger, 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Mix and bake in one crust like a pumpkin pie.

Now, who is brave enough to try this? Please, return and tell me if your family liked it. Maybe I’ll get up my nerve, though I’m not a very adventurous cook.

turnip pie pixabay

It sounds like something that Gail and Clyde Martin might try out. After all, they did make turnip slaw and turnip kraut to can. They liked to introduce new uses for vegetables to their customers at the weekly farmer’s market. They would even prepare samples for people to try.

They also liked to surprise people with foods. Gail made cucumber rings that fooled the taste buds and the eye into thinking they were cinnamon apple rings. Her sweet potato pie easily passed as a pumpkin pie. That makes me think that they might have found this recipe for turnip pie intriguing.

purple top turnips

Plenty of turnips for making turnip pie

Turnip photo by Virginia Allain

Vintage Soda Ads

Cover Picture
Sodas, Colas, Pop…  (memories by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia)

I remember sipping orange pop at the corner gas station as a kid. We could choose from grape or strawberry or chocolate pop from the big red cooler filled with icy water while Dad had the Pontiac’s gas tank filled. Ah, so cool and refreshing on a hot Kansas day.

There was a bottle opener on the side of the red cooler to pry off the metal cap. Then you took a big swig of flavored soda. The strawberry would make red streaks down your chin and on your shirt if you weren’t careful drinking it.

If you share my memories of vintage sodas, then you’ll enjoy these retro ads that I’ve found and photographed. You’ll see these old tin signs on the walls of restaurants along with other antique and nostalgia items.

We didn’t have pop at home, even for picnics or special occasions. We drank Koolaid or lemonade back in the 1950s and 1960s. Soda was too expensive.

Whether you call it pop or soda or cola depends on the region you grew up in, but the exact wording doesn’t matter. Some of these old advertisements have been reproduced on tin signs which people like to use to decorate their family room.

Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Photos by Virginia Allain

In the comment section, tell me your memories of drinking sodas as a kid (or did you call them pop)?

Love Local Cookbooks?

I’m guessing that every household has a spiral-bound cookbook filled with recipes from local cooks. Gail Lee Martin collected some of these and wrote about them for the Butler County Historical Society in Kansas. She submitted the research to their annual history essay contest in 2001 and received honorable mention for it. She donated 7 cookbooks to the museum’s collection. She also contributed her recipes to a number of  local cookbooks that came out after this article.

Hometown Sharing

Through the past hundred years, local cooks have shared their favorite recipes with friends and neighbors in many ways. Reunions, church suppers, picnics, fish fries, ice-cream socials, birthdays, weddings, Sunday dinners, and every occasion that could get a group of people together. The theory being, if you invite them to come eat good food they will show up at your meetings or events.

By early 1900 organizations around the town began to get on the bandwagon of publishing cookbooks as fund-raisers. Churches, businesses, schools, grocery stores, even radio stations discovered the fun of compiling favorite recipes from their members into a cookbook for sale.

So the call went out to all cooks in their organization to submit their favorites recipes. Catchy titles were sought to encourage sales. Some of the more interesting ones I found were: Meat Recipe RallyCountry Cooking; Regal Recipes, and the Partyline Cookbooks to name just a few.

The cookbooks reveal much more about the community than just the cooks and recipes. Local advertising was found here and there in the books to tell of businesses, some that are still here and others that have faded to just memories. The Meat Recipe Rally by Joe Browne’s Market advertises Joe’s own Hickory Smoked Sliced Bacon and Hams and Open Kettle Pure Lard. In the 1959 El Dorado City Directory Joe’s Market is listed as “ Browne’s Market, the complete food store since 1905.” The Market stayed on the same downtown corner of 200 W. Central until 1973.

In The Art of cooking in El Dorado, a Senior Citizens of El Dorado cookbook, Walnut Valley Bank and Trust listed their advertisement this way. Recipe For Financial Service. Take instant mix of Walnut Valley people, know-how, and concern . . .AND JUST ADD YOU!” Their ad certainly fit the book‘s theme.

The El Dorado Senior Center celebrated their 10th anniversary in September 1985. Around that time the cookbook was planned and Cathlin Buffum was director of the center and contributed a handful of recipes herself. Other businesses contributing their ad’s to the senior’s project were El Dorado Cable; Mc Cartney Pharmacy; PT Machine & Welding; Farmer’s Insurance; Arlene’s Beauty Shop; Castle of Lighting; Flavor Maid Do-nuts; AAA; Best’s Cleaners and Dale’s Service.

cookbooks with Gail's recipes

Family and community cookbooks that have Gail Martin’s recipes included.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the area radio station KOYY Kountry had a listener participation program called Partyline. Many recipes were shared in this morning phone-in style get together. In 1979 Partyline hostess, Jean Plummer compiled the many recipes that had flooded her office and published the first Partyline Cookbook . Two years later, when Connie Phillips was serving as hostess, the second edition of the Partyline Cookbook was published by popular demand. Together, young and old, men and women filled these cookbooks with their best cooking efforts.

A 1982 ‘Benton Community’ project producing a Country Cooking cookbook went all out with ten pages of advertisers, two full pages listing their supporters, some community history dating back to 1913, local artwork by Jo Bell for a drawing of a windmill and surrounding countryside for the cover and a unique list of what you could buy from the grocery store for a $1.00 in 1931, all from a small town of around 600 residents. Many contributors were Benton High School alumni from the 1920’s; Benton Busy Bee’s 4-H members; Girl and Boy Scouts, the Lions Club; Golden Agers; Jaycees Jaynes and Tops members.

El Dorado is the home to many churches and these churches have many church dinners. Food in every available form is brought. Everyone wants to take their best. As they taste tested their way through the many varieties, the women begin asking “Who brought this or that dish, and then ask would you share your recipe, it tasted wonderful.” This is one reason almost every church in the county has at one time or another put out a cookbook.

The United Methodist Church has been publishing cookbooks since the turn of the century. The recipes of a 1909 cookbook, Regal Recipes, were collected and arranged by the Kings Daughters of the Methodist Episcopal and is being preserved at the Butler County Historical Society Museum. This same group put out another book in 1924 with additions of new recipes from Circle One of the Methodist Ladies Aid. The women of this church but probably another generation or two published again in 1985 and the current one of 1996, Lord’s Acre Cookbook, Naomi Circle is still available. In the miscellaneous section is a neat saying, “Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread a little without getting a little on yourself.” Recipes in this segment include Homemade Apple Butter, Easy Grape Jelly, and Jalapeno Jelly.

The Towanda United Methodist Church of Christ published a Tribute to Our Past, Our Joy For Today, The Hope For Tomorrow 1885-1985. Some of the other cookbooks from their past were known to have been in 1907, 1924, and 1979.

The Christian Women’s Fellowship groups of Potwin and El Dorado compiled cookbooks in the 1980s. Potwin put out a cookbook in 1981 and titled it, Favorites Recipes From Our Best Cooks. They included a picture of their lovely brick church and a schedule of their Sunday School and Morning Worship services. The El Dorado women came out with a small handmade booklet in November 1983. With checkered oilcloth covers. The Young Women’s Group of the First Christian Church of El Dorado put out a three-ring notebook size cookbook in October 1986 to coincide with their fall money-making event, a luncheon, and craft fair.

Starting in 2005 the original El Dorado Farmer’s Market is planning a garden cookbook. So Butler County’s food sharing tradition just keeps going.


Chocolate Topped Rice Krispie Bars

Back in 2011, I asked Mom (Gail Lee Martin) to send me some recipes that I could put online for her. Here’s one she sent me:

“It is time to take the plain Rice Krispie bar recipe to the next level. Even though Rice Krispie bars are delicious, these chocolate-covered Rice Krispie bars are one step above delicious.

Rice Krispie bars are easy to make but these are easier than ever. With the use of the microwave, this is a quick bar recipe.”

Chocolate Topped Rice Krispie Bars

Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:

1 cup sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

1 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

9″ x 13″ pan

Pour the Rice Krispies into the 9″ x 13″ dish. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and the Karo syrup. Bring it to a boil, stirring frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and add the peanut butter to the mixture. Stir until smooth. Pour mixture over Rice Krispies and mix. Spread the mixture to fill the 9″ x 13″ pan evenly.

Put both the chocolate chips and the butterscotch chips into a microwave safe bowl together. Place it in the microwave, and heat on high for one minute. Stir the mixture and continue heating at 30-second intervals until all chips are melted. Pour over the bars to cover evenly.

I looked around online and didn’t find the exact recipe, so not sure where Mom discovered it. Most of the recipes used a double-boiler to melt the chocolate chips. I like the quick, microwave method she put in the recipe.

I don’t remember Mom making Rice Krispie bars for us when we were kids. We used to get our peanut butter in a small metal bucket that weighed 5 pounds. The oil would rise to the top, so you had to stir the peanut butter up before using it.

Dress up rice krispie bars with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Shedd’s peanut butter tin bucket from the 1950s