Hickory nuts are an uncultivated variety you can sometimes find at farmer’s markets. Generally speaking, I’d describe the flavor as being somewhere between a pecan and walnut, although there are multiple varieties of nuts described as hickory nuts (not all of which are palatable, though technically edible).
The basic reason for not being commercially grown or harvested is that the tasty varieties have very hard shells with very fragile nuts inside. Typical methods of cracking the nuts include a vise or a hammer and nail. Unless you become very experienced, you will not extract the meat undamaged, and there is no commercial method for doing this at present. Additionally, developing one hasn’t been a high priority, since the ratio of nut to shell is low when compared to the easier-to-open pecan.
Not too surprising to find this in a San Antonio box, since hickory trees grow in most of Texas and handle the dry weather well. If anybody is a tree-thusiast (I’m sure that’s the technical term, right?) and can offer up some thoughts on the trees involved, please do. I have a sense of them culinarily but I’m really unclear as to how closely related the trees that bear pecans are to the trees that bear hickory nuts. (Pecan trees are hickory trees, yes? Or am I confused?)
From a box sold in San Antonio, Texas.
Hickory Nut Filling
2 cups of nuts
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of cream
1/2 cup of flour
Beat eggs light; add sugar, flour, cream, then nuts. Cook in double boiler till thick enough to drop from spoon in lumps.