You can either freeze really hard-shelled nuts like black walnuts or soak them in water for several hours before cracking. Stand frozen nuts with their points facing up and hit them with a hard object like a hammer to crack them open.
For soaked nuts, crack them with a nutcracker. Place the nut in the grip of the nutcracker so that the seam of the shell meets with the direct force. Use as little force as necessary to split the shell when squeezing so that you avoid crushing the nut kernel inside. Rotate the nut while squeezing so the shell cracks slowly.
Remove the kernel from the shell and allow it to dry out for a few hours before storing. If you do not use the nuts right away, make sure you store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Nuts contain very healthy oils that can become rancid. Keep in mind that the best way to store nuts long-term is unshelled.
By the way, you can toast those shelled black walnuts in a 350 degree F oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they smell toasty. Keep your eye on them so they don't burn.
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