Over the years, customers have been asking me about storing nuts, roasting nuts and ways to use nuts. It’s finally time to respond to you with all the information I’ve gleaned over the last 30 years. I’m not a food scientist, but I do know nuts. I’m in the right business; I love nuts!
You might find other information elsewhere that varies a little. I’ve seen it myself. This is the way I do it, and frankly, in my opinion, there are very few hard and fast rules to any of this. When we come to one, I’ll tell you. Let’s first start with:
1.Leaving them at Room Temperature. Nuts should be good through their best by date. I leave lots of my nuts in my pantry (cool, dark place) with no problem. I entertain a lot and use nut mixes and roasted salted nuts from the pantry to serve with drinks and have few, if any, problems. Don’t leave them open to the air or in the sun – sun and nuts don’t mix.
2.Refrigerating Nuts. Nuts and Nut Mixes like being in the refrigerator, and you’ll get an extra six months at least from them if you store them there. You can always pull them out and let them warm to room temperature before guests arrive. One caveat: Mixes with chocolate in them. The chocolate may “bloom” or turn white in the refrigerator. So, you may want to consider this.
3.Freezer. This is my favorite. I take raw pecans, almonds and walnuts and throw them right in our bags that they come in into the freezer. They will last in there 1-2 years. Same caveat as above about chocolate “blooming”.
CUTTING & CHOPPING NUTS
1.Hand-breaking. This is my preferred method, since I saw my mother do this for years. With clean hands and a big bowl, she would camp in from of the TV and hand break pecans. They end up in various medium size pieces, and you have to scoop the bowl to make sure you have them all. But it’s kind of relaxing. This is a little harder to do with walnuts, but I’ve done it. But, forget about doing this with almonds.
2.Chopping on the chopping board. Most cooking shows will use this method. Taking a large knife and using a rocking motion, chop the nuts. Doing this with almonds can certainly be done, but they have a tendency to want to fly around. (Every wonder how they get those perfectly thin slices of almonds? The big shellers hot-water blanch them to soften them, then immediately run them through a slicer. When the nuts cool down, they return to their crispy state.)
3.Use a manual chopper with a clear jar. Not really my preference, but contains the nuts and would work well on those nuts that want to roll and fly around.
WARMING AND TOASTING NUTS
1. In the Oven. This is my favorite method that I’ve used for decades. I use a large jelly roll pan (It’s like a cookie sheet with sides.) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts out in one even layer. When the oven comes up to temperature, put the pan in the oven and set a timer for three minutes.
In about three minutes, a few things should start happening. If you’re doing a really small batch, it may be time to take them out. If you just want to warm them, you may want to take them out. If you want to toast them, you should begin to smell the nuts, if not pay attention to for the toasting odor. And here’s the hard and fast rule I told you about earlier: Keep your eye on them. Don’t leave the vicinity. Peek in the oven. If they look glossy, that is their natural oils coming out and they are beginning to toast. Keep a close eye and pull them out when they are how you like them. There is a thin line between golden and burned! My husband likes them really toasted, just before they burn. Talk about a thin line!
Pour them on to Parchment Paper or Waxed Paper if you don’t have that. Spread them out to cool. Here is where you would salt them, if you wanted to salt them. More about salt later. Once completely cooled, put them in an airtight container or bag. From here, you can store them at room temp, in the fridge or the freezer.
2.Stovetop Method. I just tried this method the other day with Macadamia Nuts. We sell raw Macadamia Nuts and so many customers were asking how to roast and salt these, that I gave it a try with this method. Depending on how many nuts you roasting, put that size pan (or work in batches, so you don’t have too many nuts in the pan) over med-low to medium heat. Put in the nuts. Since all the heat is now coming only from below, keep moving the nuts around to get the heat evenly distributed. I didn’t notice the oils coming out like I normally do in the oven, but this is probably because they are absorbed in the pan. After four minutes, I noticed that they were browning on one side, so I removed them and put them on a large paper plate.
Then, I immediately salted them. You want to salt them when they’re hot and oily, so the salt will stick. Here, let’s talk about salt. In our plant, we use flour salt. It like it sounds…a really fine salt, so fine that it looks like flour. I couldn’t find it in our local grocery store. It’s probably online somewhere, but I made my own. I took a little less than ¼ cup of Kosher salt and put it in our small blender, or you could probably use a small coffee grinder. And with a couple of blends, out came flour salt.
My husband tasted the roasted, salted Macadamias and pronounced that I had over-salted them. No problem. Let the Macadamias completely cool. Pull out a good length paper towels, and working in batches if you need to, bundle up the nuts and rub them together in the paper towels. After I did that I could see all the salt left in the paper towels, and the resulting Macadamias were perfect!
3.The Microwave Method. I personally never use this method. However, you put the nuts in the microwave for a minute or two. They will not have a golden or browned look, but they will have the toasted taste.
ENTERTAINING WITH NUTS
There’s probably not a lot I can tell you here that you don’t already know or haven’t read somewhere else. We all know nuts are good for you, great for snacking, great as appetizers, great on salads, enhance baked goods, and make desserts sing.
Everyone who comes to my house knows they are going to get some nuts one way or another. So, over the years, which are the most popular? One friend always begs me to bring her a bag of Nut and Berry. Roasted, Salted Cashews are always sure winners. Our out of shell pistachios are also big. And, when I bring out the Macadamia Nuts, everyone thinks it is a special treat. I feel like all my nuts and mixes are my children, so it’s hard to single just one out, but I’ll do it anyway. Hands down, the favorite rave, without a doubt, is our First Class Aloha Mix. People just love it, and so do I!
If I haven’t covered something here, or there’s something you’d like to hear more about, please let me know! [email protected]