Nut gathering season is the time of year when I become a professional squirrel, first scouting out my favorite nut trees to check on the year’s potential harvest, then, finally, scrambling around on all fours gathering up as many nuts as I can before the squirrels get to them when they start to drop.
After processing, washing and drying/curing comes cracking and eating-a laborious task, but, if you’ve ever tasted a black walnut freshly pried from it’s shell, you’ll know the taste is a world of difference compared to other nuts, and even commercial black walnuts.
Commercial black walnuts are good, and I’m grateful that Hammonds (the only commercial supplier I know of in North America) sells them, but, as all the nuts they sell are wild harvested by all sorts of people, there’s some variation in quality if the nuts have been in contact with their hulls for an extended period of time. Black walnuts you harvest yourself will taste the best, and are so rich in oil when freshly cracked it will come out in your hand if you squeeze them (sidenote, black walnut oil is also sold as a commercial product, but tastes like regular walnuts).
For a few years now I’ve been using the tried and true method of cracking black walnuts that Sam Thayer taught me, and it works well. I crack the nuts with a hammer in a basalt mortar (molcajete) or on a large field stone in the backyard, using a metal snips to spot-treat tough portions to reveal the nut meats. While it takes some patience, that method greatly improved the quality and size of my nuts, and dependably gives me whole 1/4’s of black walnuts instead of crumbles, which are worth far more on the market (as much as 30$/lb from some boutique suppliers in Italy).
I was fine with my cracking method, but, during an interview with Jim Ruen for Farm Show Magazine earlier this year, he extolled the virtues of something called Grandpa’s Goody Getter. I wrote it off at first, having tried a number of black walnut crackers already, none of them living up to the tried and true cracking and snipping.
My curiosity was piqued though, so I looked up the Goody Getter online. After I watched the video with Basil Bacon demonstrating his invention, which was much more hefty and large than other, much smaller crackers made for black walnuts, I had to buy one, and, as you are probably figuring, it works, really well.
Fascinated by the machine, I called Basil for an interview so I could learn more about Grandpa’s Goody Getter and how it came to be. Basil, speaking with the same endearing drawl you can see in his demo video (which you must watch!) led me through the process a bit. Long story short, after he retired in 2002, he needed something to keep him busy. An avid tinkerer and self proclaimed “junkyard inventor” he said he’d made many inventions over the years, with Grandpa’s Goody Getter apparently being the breakthrough and runaway success, in the scheme of things.
When I asked him why he made it, we touched briefly on necessity being the mother of invention, and I laughed out loud when he told me that instead of necessity, most useful things are born instead from laziness, and the mentality of “there has to be an easier way”. There’s some real truth in that.
Basil said he spent over 19 years working on the initial nutcracker prototype, constantly tinkering with it and trying to improve it along the way. After the prototype was made, it took another 8 years for them to figure out how to sell it, the business of which he’s now passed onto his son who handles their website and social media.
As far as the machine itself, like most good inventions, Basil said that he took an existing design (a cam-based nut cracker that he said had been around since the 1700’s) and tried to make some improvements. Well, I’ve never used one of the older models, but I can tell you that Grandpa’s Goodie Getter works better than any black walnut cracker I’ve used.
The real genius of Grandpa’s Goodie Getter is in it’s versatility and ability to accommodate just about any size of nut, where most crackers have a static system meant to hold nuts of a similar size in place, Grandpa’s Goody Getter will clamp onto any sized black walnut, pecan, or, as I’ve learned, most butternuts-the most difficult nut I’ve ever attempted to crack. As Basil said to me “Butternuts are like a piece of butter in Grandpa’s Goody Getter”.
What thrilled me about the machine though, besides it’s handsome size and weight (especially after being mounted to a 10 lb slab of black walnut by my Grandfather) were the results. On about my fifth try cracking the last of my 2019 butternuts, I got nothing less than a whole, completely intact butternut. Not a whole half: a whole, complete butternut.
After years of frustration cracking butternuts and getting excited to get a whole half, I felt like I finally had a reason to harvest larger amounts of them. As Basil says in his demo video, it is absolutely possible to get an entire, intact black walnut using Grandpa’s Goodie Getter. A whole black walnut in it’s entirety is a thing of beauty, a sort of holy grail for nutcrackers, and something I’ve never seen anyone do using any other method, ever. In time, it will be mine.
Black walnut white whales aside, I think the really great thing here, the nut at the center so to speak, is that Grandpa’s Goody Getter is a dying breed of product: a machine born of curiosity, good old fashioned American ingenuity, creativity, and years of hard work. These are the sort of products I will go out of my way to support, and, if you harvest black walnuts, I think you should too.
Yes, it’s an expensive nutcracker at about 150$, but, when I count the number of hours I’ve saved already, and the money and labor I put into black walnut crackers that aren’t good enough to clean up the shells leftover by my GGG, not to mention the quick responses and help trouble shooting Basil’s son provides, I’d buy another in a heartbeat. Did I mention the speed at which this thing cracks nuts too? It will basically turn your garage into an assembly line. See my video below for a demo.
To sweeten the deal, you can order the cracker directly from Grandpa’s Goody Getter, instead of that soul-sucking, scourge of small businesses that is Amazon (it’s cheaper there too). Full disclosure: Grandpa’s Goody Getter has not paid me or compensated me in any way, shape or form to share this with you. I bought a nutcracker at full price, and it’s an investment I wouldn’t think twice about shelling out for again. As the old saying goes: “buy nice, or buy twice”.