After gathering the nut you need to hull them as soon as possible. If you can’t hull the right away store them in bags that will breath. They will mold in just a few days if stored in a solid bag or barrel. It is easiest to take them to a huller and they will come out clean. If not then use what ever method you choose to remove the hulls and spread them out to dry or in a loose mesh bag like an onion sack. If you have access to a cement mixer it will hull and clean the nuts real good with just a few rocks thrown in to grind the hulls up (this system is messy). You can pile them on the driveway and drive over them with a 4 wheeler, tractor or car and clean up the big stuff. It will leave a mess but it will disappear after a rain or two. Of course you can step on them one at a time any other way you can figure out and if you get a good one let me know.
After drying I like to wash them. The cement mixer does a great and easy job with a little water thrown in. I use a wire cage and hose them with a power washer. They can also be washed quite well in a wheelbarrow. Cover them with water and scramble them with a rake. At least place them in a loose mesh bag (onion sack and hose them of with a spray wand turning over the bag frequently and get as clean as you can. If there are any nuts floating high in the water they are no good so discard them. If they are just barely floating they are questionable. This will not dependable after the nuts are several weeks dry as the dry they are the more they are likely to float.
Store the nuts in a breathable sack. NEVER in a bucket or box that cant let air in on all sides. Be sure to always store or dry the walnuts where the squirrels can’t get to them as they can make quick work of a full bag of nuts. (They may like em even better than we do)
When soaking the nuts sample crack each day until they crack easily and the nutmeats are soft and don’t crumble Probably need to soak them at least two days. Some nuts are good to go and some take as much as eight (8) days to reach the just right stage. Allow the nuts to dry to the touch and get crackin.
If you can’t crack them all soon they can be stored for about a week in a sealed container and they will retain the moisture. Not too long though as they will start to mold according to the temperature. If they are kept in open air and dry out again the process can be repeated. Your taster will tell you when they are too old but I have cracked nuts as much as five years old that were still good when properly handled.
Nutmeats can be frozen and thawed any number of times with no effect while in the shell or after cracking and stored in a freezer. If you have nuts that have dried out even as much as two or three years old you can soak them in water and soften them to a point nearly as good as when you first cracked them.
When smooth bark (referring to the bark on the tree) hickory nuts fall from the tree, they will not crack easily. It is best to store the nuts in a breathable container for one year and then crack them. The long drying period will allow the nutmeats to dry and shrink away from the gills of the shell and make them much easier to remove and may or may not work best after soaking but try it.
(Exception) Some smooth bark nuts fall with the hull still on them, This nut can be cracked immediately after hulling with excellent results. They must be fresh off the tree.
Shag bark hickory nuts are perfect for cracking immediately after they fall and will crack well for several weeks. If you have had the nuts more than two or three months, they will be dry. Just soak them in water for a day or two, then let them dry for two days, and you are ready go. Almost as good as the fresh ones were.
Pecans just crack better with about six hours of soaking to soften the nut meats if they are not extremely fresh.
Hope this is helpful.
Grandpa's Goody Getter