Monday, September 08, 2014

Fresh Hazelnuts Harvest and Preparation

Harvesting and Preparing Fresh Hazelnuts


Hazelnuts / Cobnuts / Filberts in Season in the UK

I very much enjoy the flavor of hazelnuts.  Hazelnut (the nut of the hazel tree) is also referred to as cobnut or filbert nut according to species.  I do not know the specific species of hazelnut I have harvested this year, but they sure do taste good!

I really have no idea how many hazelnut trees are in the UK since they do not appear terribly abundant  — I have only found a few so far (Turkey is the big commercial producer in the world with about 70% of the total, though in 2014 the hazelnut crop was 90% lost due to frost and such).

I encountered some trees located right along a paved public bike-trail nearby in the Southwest of the United Kingdom, but only located them by chance when I saw all the pulverized nut shells and mashed (by bikes) filberts on the trail.  There is a bit of work involved in manually collecting fresh hazelnuts.

It was not too difficult to locate the source cobnut tree(s) based on where the nuts had rolled to on the ground — just a bit of back-tracing.  But, then came the fun of dealing with stinging nettles growing all around the base of the trees! (ouch!)  With careful movement, I was able to collect about a kilogram of nuts with only a few nettle stings.

Hazelnuts Nutritional Value — Healthy-Eating

Hazelnuts are a rather healthy nut and a great gluten-free ingredient.  They are high in dietary fiber and low carb.  In fact, they have more protein than they do "net" carbs (carbohydrates less fiber portion of carbs). They are rich in vitamin E especially (100% daily requirements in 100g of nuts)!

In addition, the nuts contain a nice balance of minerals and other vitamins: B1, B6, and folate are notable vitamins; manganese, magnesium, and iron are noteworthy minerals.  Furthermore these nuts contain a lot of healthy unsaturated fats (especially oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat) that may even help lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.

Hazelnuts in Pictures (in husks, clusters, loose, and shelled) 

Here are some pictures that show the hazelnuts in their varied states, along with a look at the tree leaf that may help you identify a hazel tree along the way:

Hazelnuts / Cobnuts : on tree, in husks, and husked

Shelled Hazelnuts / Filbers / Cobnuts -- ready to toast / roast

Roasted Hazelnuts

How to Roast the Hazelnuts

It took a few hours to shell all the hazelnuts.  I chose a pair of pliers to crack the nut shells with and my wife opted for the meat-hammer to crack them open with.  Shelling the hazelnuts is the hardest bit of work in the entire process — it takes time and my forearms and hand muscles can still feel the aftereffects of squeezing pliers for hours.  Perhaps there is an easier way, but this worked I guess.

Roasting is optional.  You may prefer the nuts raw — the flavor at this point is much milder and the consistency is rather like fresh coconut.  Roasting really brings out the hazelnut flavor that you may be used to tasting in hazelnut praline and similar products, and I really like that well-developed flavor.

Once the nuts are all shelled, simply place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet (or jelly-roll pan with a slight edge — as I have done — so they do not roll off) and put them into a 150-degree-Celsius (300 degree F) oven for about an hour or just over.  You can decide how long to bake them based on the desired consistency.  I like them nice and crunchy, but I do not mind them slightly soft in the center either (still with that coconut-like consistency).  You can test them by pressing down on them with a fork or other utensil and observing whether they "give" yet — a crunchy nut will not give at all.  My preferred crunchier nuts took about 1 hour and 10 minutes in a convection oven.

Coming up: Using Hazelnuts in Recipes

I have been using these fresh hazelnuts in a variety of gluten-free recipes lately. The simplest of these recipes is a nice nutty granola with toasted whole hazelnuts, fresh coconut, almonds, raisins or currants, and some gluten-free oats.

I have been making homemade hazelnut butter with the roasted nuts. Another favorite is my own version of "Nutella" (brand) hazelnut / chocolate spread but without all the sugar and with a LOT higher percentage of hazelnut and cocoa — here is a link to my gluten-free Nutella-like cocoa hazelnut spread recipe.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

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