Hazelnuts: Recipes, storage ideas and processing advice needed
September 4, 2013 2:08 PM   Subscribe

My hazelnut bushes are finally bearing, and I need your advice on dealing with the harvest.

I have several quarts of ripe (I believe) hazelnuts and am looking for help with the following:

How do I know when the nuts are ripe? I picked a bunch of nuts that were ready to fall off the bushes -- they were brown, with husks that were green with a bit of brownish red at the base. Other nuts are ripening; they look like whitish-green almonds at this point. Should I pick them when they are whiter rather than browner? (These are harder to pull from the bushes.)

For the raw, freshly-picked nuts: How should I store them? Should they be roasted before storage, or right before use?

Roasting: What temperature/time combination do you suggest (allowing, of course, for variations in ovens)? I've seen everything from 275F/15 minutes to 350F/10mins. What has worked for you?

Vocabulary: I would like to understand the relevant terms. Shell is not the same as skin, right? Should I have cracked open the shell before roasting? I am confused. Educate me, please.

Recipes: I need them. I attempted a chocolate spread and it is good but unsatisfying (and there are occasional crunchy bits, which makes me unhappy). I would like your favorite tried-and-true recipes for using up hazelnuts. I'm more of a baker than a cook, and have access to a food processor.

Yours in cobnuts -- and with thanks, as always.
posted by MonkeyToes to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked in with The Hazelnut Council?

Who knew?
posted by jquinby at 2:26 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had a hazelnut in our garden when I was a kid. We would harvest hazelnuts off the ground rather than plucking them off the bush. A quick google search seems to confirm this technique. I found a few places stating that they won't be ripe if you pull them off the plant.

I remember my mom roasting the nuts but don't remember at what temperature or for how long. The same search mentioned above seems to hint at it being a matter of taste more than of a risk of doing it wrong.

We would shell them before roasting them as in extracting the nut from the hard shell first. Hazelnuts have a delicate skin around the nut inside of the shell which stays attached but tends to flake off after roasting.

As for what to do with them?

posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:28 PM on September 4, 2013

Oh, forgot, as far as storage is concerned, you can freeze the nuts after shelling them and roast them later.

For quick sorting upon harvest: dump the nuts you collected into a bucket of water. Empty nuts as well as a lot of other dirt/debris will float to the top for easy discarding. Keep all nuts that sink for further processing.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:31 PM on September 4, 2013

And one more thing I forgot: I have generally found that food processors don't actually work that well for certain items. Probably because the amounts tend to be too small or the bowl too big or the blade to far away from the bowl's bottom or something. For grinding nuts into a paste I prefer to use a coffee or spice grinder.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:42 PM on September 4, 2013

Thanks, Hairy Lobster. Can you clarify something from the recipe you linked?

"Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little."

OK, I read this as: Do the float test. Sunken nuts are OK to use after they've dried out. These go onto the baking sheet *without any sort of cracking or shelling.* Is that correct?

I am confused about the shelling issue, especially as many of the illustrated recipes I've found use pictures of what appear to be nuts in the hard brown shell. Urk?

I also have a grain mill. How do you think that would work?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:45 PM on September 4, 2013

No you would shell them. There is a brown inner skin that will remain. That's what is getting toasted.
posted by JPD at 2:52 PM on September 4, 2013

Yeah, JPD is right. They're talking about shelled nuts. It's the delicate skin around the nut itself that will brown, blister and often crack and peel.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2013

A grain mill might work. But even in a smallish mill like a coffee mill you'll end up getting a layer of smooshed nut stuck to the bottom that stops getting turned over by the blades. This layer may have unmilled bits stuck in it that are just small enough so the blades zip over them without touching. So I tend to do the following a few times until I'm happy with the consistency: run the mill, stop the mill, manually mix up the stuff inside making sure to lift that layer from the bottom, run the mill again, etc...

You could also mill the nuts until they start to turn into a sludge and then transfer this over to a mortar and work it by hand. You could probably get better more even results that way but it's hard work and takes longer in order to be thorough.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2013

Shell them first. They will have brown papery skins on them after you shell them. Toast them (I like 350 F for about 15 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes to prevent burning.) YMMV depending on your oven and how dry/ripe your hazelnuts are in the first place. By the end they should be fragrant and the skins should start flaking/peeling away. After they're toasted, while they're still warm but not burning hot, put about a cup of them in a rough kitchen towel, and rub it between your hands. The friction of the towel will cause the skins to come off the nuts. You don't have to rub until they're perfectly clean, but getting some of the skin off will go a long way toward improving the taste/texture of your hazelnut paste (and hazelnut desserts in general).

For long-term storage the freezer is the way to go--heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags should be fine. Refrigerator is a close second, if you have room. Room temp is the worst because they will go rancid.

For the chocolate spread, you should know that homemade Nutella/hazelnut paste will never be as smooth as the kind you can buy in stores--just not possible with home equipment. I do a pretty decent hazelnut butter in the food processor. The trick is to get it full enough that the hazelnuts don't just rattle around in an empty processor, but not so full as to cause it to be overstuffed. I also add a spoonful or two of hazelnut oil (you can sub any neutral oil) to smooth it out before proceeding with the chocolate-hazelnut spread.

These are self-links, but here are a few of my fave hazelnut recipes. I'm also working on a recipe for Hazelnut Buckeyes today (!!!) and will come back and pop in the link when it's posted.

Hazelnut White Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Trifle
Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with homemade hazelnut butter)
posted by Bella Sebastian at 3:17 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would like to share with you the world's best recipe for brussels sprouts. I call it Brussels-Sprouts-For-People-Who-Don't-Like-Brussels-Sprouts.

1 lb. brussels sprouts
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
4 tbsps. Oil or butter or a combo of both (I use a combo, as set out below)
1/2 juicy lemon

Okay, first you have to peel the hazelnuts, which is its own thing, so do some extra so you won't have to keep doing it every time you make the sprouts. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet & bake at about 350 for approx. 12 to 15 minutes. The peel will start to crack on most of the nuts by then. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then rub in handfuls in a towel or between your palms to remove the peel. But don't get crazy. You'll only be able to remove about 3/4 of the peel.

Okay, next you have to chop the brussels sprouts. Trim them fiercely so that no dark green leaves are left, just the tender inner light green ones. You can slice them using a mandoline or grater, but I just use a knife. You're shredding them. Think about it as though you were slicing miniature cabbages into shreds. Discard the stem ends and the dark leaves and keep only the pale green and white leaves.

You'll end up with a much bigger pile of discards than usable vegetables, especially if you get the teeny tiny ones, but it's worth it, lol.

Okay now the nuts are peeled & chopped and the sprouts are chopped and you're ready to cook. This part takes no time at all.

In one sautee pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sprouts and 1/4 cup water, cover tightly, reduce the heat to about medium, and cook for five minutes.

While they're cooking, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat, add the chopped hazelnuts, and cook, stirring constantly, until they are just beginning to brown. Just BARELY beginning. About five minutes.

Uncover the sprouts, add the nuts & the butter they were cooked in, toss, return the heat to medium high and cook for about another five to seven minutes, until tender. Squeeze the lemon over the sprouts, toss, and serve. Oh this is so good.

I don't even know how many people this serves because left to myself I'll eat the whole damn thing in one sitting.
posted by janey47 at 3:26 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Toast them as Bella Sebastian describes, then whiz them to a meal-like consistency in your food processor and add them to pureed peppers for romesco.
posted by holgate at 3:51 PM on September 4, 2013

Interestingly, the floater nuts seem to have meat inside. Is there some other aspect of this test I need to know?
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2013

Hm, I would imagine that there's something wrong with floaters even if they appear to have meat in them. The nuts really should sink. Could be the meat is dried up or underdeveloped. At least in my experience a healthy fully developed nut with no shell damage will sink.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:55 AM on September 5, 2013

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