In the Northern Hemisphere the official start of autumn is just 17 days away. With the new season comes the changing of the leaves, warm-soft scarves, soothing drinks made from apples and pears, comforting hot meals, and fresh nuts. Hazelnuts will soon fall from the trees ready to be roasted and enjoyed by many. Yes, those creamy nuts that compliment chocolate so well and that give a crunchiness to all sorts of sweets will soon be arriving.
My extended neighborhood is lined with hazelnut trees, I believe the Common Hazel and Filbert variety. I can’t tell you how many times, on late summer and early autumn days, I’ve walked those quiet streets and come across some strange looking nuts on the ground. I figured they were something native to the area and ones that I had never heard of. It wasn’t until I saw the same nuts at the green grocers with a sign saying hazelnuts that I learned what they were. I never realized that they were fresh, raw hazelnuts right from the tree; of course I had to buy a small bag and give them a taste.
The internet confirmed that they were indeed raw hazelnuts right from the tree. What a lucky find for me. Apparently most hazelnuts are not sold in this exact state, still encased in their green leaves. Hazelnut growers wait until the nuts have fallen from the trees on their own before being harvested. By this time the leaves and nut shell have turned brown and are ready to be eaten. Though hazelnuts may be eaten raw it is customary to roast them to bring out more flavour and their distinct aroma.
How I roasted the raw hazelnuts still in their shell:
I allowed my raw hazelnuts to sit for a few more days before roasting, so the leaves dried out a bit more. I then removed each nut from the inside the green leaf pockets. Since I wanted to roast in their shell I wanted to make sure they were clean, they were quickly rinsed under water. Then I pat dried them and left to sit and completely air dry before roasting. The oven was heated to 135C or 275F, the nuts where laid on a baking sheet in one layer. They roasted for 20 minutes, I then cracked one open to check on the colour. When they are ready to be removed from the oven the colour will be slightly golden, the shell will turn a dark brown like in these photos. I then poured the roasted hazelnuts onto a separate cool baking sheet to allow to cool before eating. Of course it goes without saying that they need to cool before handling. You’ll also want to rub off the brown skin from the nuts as it gives them a slight bitter taste. I did so by placing some nuts on a clean kitchen towel and rubbing together until the skin came off.
The smell of the hazelnuts roasting was incredible, and the taste doesn’t even compare to ready roasted store bought nuts. I hope to find them raw like this again this year. Though they are plenty around my neighborhood I just wouldn’t feel right taking food away from the local wild life. Regardless, I know I’ll definately be roasting hazelnuts again.
How about you, have you ever gone hazelnut picking or roasted your own raw hazelnuts?