Old-fashioned Black Walnut Taffy Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, December 22, 1913:  Carrie was over this afternoon. We picked out nuts. Made taffy this evening, but it didn’t get good and the nuts were wasted.

Grandma had problems, but my taffy turned out great.

Grandma had problems, but my taffy turned out great.

The taffy before I wrapped it.

The taffy before I wrapped it.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . What kind of taffy did Grandma and her friend Carrie Stout make? . . . Maybe they picked black walnuts out of the shells and then made Black Walnut Taffy.

I decided to give it a try. . . and held my breath. My husband and I cracked, and picked out, some black walnuts last week-end. It was a lot of work—and I really hoped that I’d be more successful making the candy than Grandma was.

Old-fashioned Black Walnut Taffy

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup finely chopped black walnuts

Combine sugar, molasses, water, and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir in cream of tartar. Reduce heat and continue to boil until the mixture reaches the hard ball stage (256 degrees on a candy thermometer).

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and baking soda; then stir in the black walnuts.  Pour onto a well-buttered plate or shallow bowl.

As the candy cools along the sides fold into the center.

When cool enough to handle, coat hands with butter,  pull the candy using hands until color lightens, and it becomes airier and less sticky.

Shape into strips approximately 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter, and place on wax paper that has been placed on a cookie sheet.  Chill slightly, then cut the candy into bit-sized pieces.

Cut rectangles of waxed paper approximately 2 inches X 4 inches. Wrap the candy in the waxed paper and twist ends.

The taffy turned out wonderfully. The two intense flavors– molasses and black walnut—merged to a more nuanced, but awesome, taste sensation.  I highly recommend this taffy.

Here are the links to two previous posts that you might enjoy:

How to Crack Black Walnuts

Old-fashioned Sugar Taffy 

34 Responses

  1. You always seem ready for the holiday season – must run in the family. A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours – may our friendship continue throughout the New Year.

    • I just seem more organized on the blog than what I really am. I have LOTS and LOTS of things that I still need to do before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you via our blogs. Merry Christmas!

      • A very Merry Christmas to you, Sheryl. I have been honored to get to know you and your ancestors for over a year now and I hope the site and our friendship continue into the next year.

  2. You were brave to try making taffy, I think. Glad it turned out well. Poor Grandma….

  3. I am so impressed that you did this very Xmas-y thing like making black walnut taffy a hundred years later! There is not way I would ever attempt such a thing. :)

  4. This post helps me to realize how much we have and how easy it is to get it. There is still something wonderful about making something special yourself and something very real about having a flop!

    • You’re right, there is something special about making things myself (and the risk of failure probably adds to the fun). I don’t even want to think about how many hours my husband and I put into getting everything in place to make this candy–gathering black walnuts last fall, hulling them, cracking them and picking nuts out, cooking the candy, pulling the taffy, cutting it, wrapping it. But we had a lot of fun with it. :)

  5. What a lot of work! Good job. I had forgotten all about black walnuts!

  6. How fun!! That is so cool, that you made the taffy–I’m so glad it turned out well for you, if not Helena. Candy making is so iffy–those pesky candy thermometers . . .

  7. I’ve never made candy, you are so brave!

  8. I don’t have fond memories of black walnuts! My dad brought black walnut ice cream back to us on our homestead as a treat when I was about 5 and I ate so much I got sick! I think it was meant more for him than for us kids! lol!

  9. What fun, to recreate old recipes! Thanks for sharing too.

  10. […] makes perfect. The previous day Grandma  tried to make taffy, but it didn’t turn out […]

  11. I do find your posts interesting and reflective. The fact that you so nicely are able to visualise what happened a hundred years back (to the day!) and then link that to your present thoughts and actions is so powerful.

    Merry Christmas!


    • Thank you for the kind comments. I have a lot of fun doing the posts, and it’s wonderful to hear when others appreciate them.

      Merry Christmas!

  12. Hope you didn’t have to answer the telephone whilst doing this :D!

  13. Love your candy dish. Just has to be antique!

  14. That looks sticky. I’m glad I’m not the only one that tries a recipe and it doesn’t work out. I’m with your Grandmother on the taffy. It looks like she was more successful above. I think it super cool that you made some. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.

    • It was sticky–though it became less sticky after I pulled it a couple minutes. I hope that you and your family also have a very Merry Christmas.

  15. What an effort and what anticipation! Looks very tasty!

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