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Archive for December 17th, 2007

Pileated woodpecker!

We had an unusual visitor this afternoon.   He was investigating our elm trees.   As soon as I went out to take his portrait, he flitted around to the power pole, where I got this quick shot:

pileated-woodpecker.jpg

Not amenable to sharing his space with a human, he moved on immediately after I took this photo.   I saw him cross the street and land in one of the elms over there.

Pretty nifty to see him.  These birds do not usually come into town at all!   They prefer the quiet woods.

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A while ago one of my friends went to Hawaii for vacation.   She asked me what I wanted from Hawaii, and since I already have rocks for the labyrinth,  I told her I would really love to have some macadamia nuts.  

I love macadamia nuts, but so often when you buy them in the stores around here they are very old, have not been stored right, and are rancid.   Considering the high price you have to pay for them, this is more than just a little disappointing, especially since they are packaged in such a way that you can’t tell they are bad until you get them home.

Well, she went off to Hawaii and when she returned she very proudly presented me with a bag of fresh macadamia nuts in the shell.   Needless to say, I was not expecting nuts in the shell.   I didn’t even know they sold them raw, all the macadamias I had ever encountered were shelled, and most of them roasted and salted to boot.  

The bag had a label on it.   It read “A very hard nut to crack.  Delicious raw.”  It went on to give roasting directions for roasting the nuts in the shell.   I am here to testify that macadamia nuts are indeed a very hard nut to crack, and roasting them does not make them any easier to get out of their shell.

We tried our regular nut cracker, and quit trying to break open the shells before it broke, and also before we hurt our hands.   I tried hitting them with a hammer, but they bounced off the cutting board and flew around the kitchen in the wildest manner.   In fact, I left a very considerable dent in the cutting board.   We did manage to break one open, but the incredible force necessary resulted in pieces of nut that were pretty much microscopic in size.

Obviously, we were missing something here.   I had no idea how they got them out of their shells in the factories where they were processed, and I also was pretty sure that the natives who had discovered them knew how to extract them from their shells.  

Of course, I immediately went to Google and searched for information on how to crack macadamia nuts.   I found several amusing sites with no very useful information.   I learned that in Hawaii, the natives have favorite “Nut cracking” rocks with holes just the right size to contain a nut while they whack it with another rock.    We don’t have a lot of lava rocks with holes in them around here, so I sort of started to despair that I was ever going to eat these delicious morsels.  

Then I happened across a site where they showed a picture of how to crack macadamia nuts, and it involved using vise grips and a hammer.    The vice grips act as the “hole in the rock” and the hammer acts as the “Nut smashing rock.”   I asked my dear husband if we had vise grips, and he wanted to know what I wanted them for.   So I explained my plan, and he went out to his work shop and brought me a macadamia nut cracking station.

nut-cracking-station.jpg

You hold the nut with the vise grips, place it on the iron bar and smack it not too gently three or four times with the flat hammer.   It will crack open and you will be able to extract the nut meat almost completely whole from the shell.  

As you can see from the bag, I have been successfully cracking this hard nut to crack for some time.   I’m almost out of nuts.

Someone needs to go to Hawaii pretty soon!

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