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 

35 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Black Walnut Taffy Recipe

  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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 🙂

  3. 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 . . .

  4. 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!

    1. I think that there might be a post later this winter that you’ll want to skip. I still have some black walnuts left . . .and was thinking about trying to making black walnut ice cream sometime. 🙂

  5. 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!


    1. I also think that the candy dish is beautiful and have wondered about it. The dish once was my mother’s, but I don’t know how old it is or the story behind it.

  6. 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.

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