We get all nostalgic about nuts around the holidays. No, we don’t mean the loony friends and relatives that come out of the woodwork this time of year. We mean the ones with shells, you silly. Here’s what we do to crack open walnuts and pecans more easily.

Walnuts: Soak them in salt water overnight—one-half teaspoon of salt to every cup of water—and they’ll be a cinch to crack with your nutcracker.

Pecans: These nuts have a reputation for being almost impossible to open, but hot water makes pecan shells more porous and creates air pockets, making them a breeze to open. Here’s how to do it—place pecans in a microwave-safe container, cover them with water and zap them on high for about three minutes. Then take the pecans out of the water and, once they’re cool, their shells should be easy to crack. If the pecans seem a little damp, place them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for a few minutes to dry them out. Leave them in the oven for two or three minutes longer (check frequently…they can burn easily) for a delicious toasty flavor!

More about nuts…