Hazelnuts

September 4, 2015 lawanda Magazine Columns

        The combination of hazelnuts with chocolate is almost as popular as the chocolate/peanut butter combo.  Nutella, the chocolate/hazelnut spread, probably has as many fans as do peanut butter cups.

You might be surprised to learn that hazelnuts grow throughout Wisconsin and are found along trails, roadsides, fence rows and woodland edges in dry or moist spots.  For most of the year they look like any other non-descript shrub, and you might not give them a second glance unless you happen to look closely enough to wonder at the odd looking nuts in their husks.  Hazelnut shrubs are multi-stemmed and grow to fifteen feet tall and wide.

There are catkins, little flowering spikes, hanging from the branches at three times during the year.  The most noticeable are the yellowish male catkins in very early spring before the leaves come out.  At the same time, tiny, spidery, magenta female flowers at the ends of the branches are waiting to be pollinated.  If pollination is successful, a clump of two or three nuts will form, each inside its own papery husk.  In summer, small immature green catkins hide among the leaves and in winter, the catkins are brown and dead-appearing.

The husks and nuts remain on the shrub until the husks turn brown and the nuts fall off the tree in early autumn.  There is a limited amount of time to grab them for harvest, because you will be competing with squirrels and birds.  After the nuts fall, the hazelnut’s leaves turn a beautiful pink, then orange and finally a scarlet so intense that the plant’s existence is justified even without providing food.

After collecting the nuts, let them dry in their husks (in a squirrel-proof place) for a week or two.  Then shell them with a nutcracker.  The inner nuts need to be peeled.  Here’s how:  In a medium saucepan with high sides, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add 3 tablespoons baking soda.  The water will foam up.  Add the nuts to the boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.  Don’t panic when the water turns black.  Use a slotted spoon to remove a test nut and place it in a bowl of ice water.  Use your fingers to rub the skin off the nut.  If it doesn’t come off easily, boil the nuts another minute or two and try another test.  When the skins rub right off, add all the nuts to the ice water and peel the rest.  Dry the nuts well with a cloth or paper towel.  If you like, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350° F oven for 15 minutes.

Hazelnuts can be stored in an airtight bag or container in the freezer for a year or more.  They’ll last a good long time in the refrigerator as well.  Warm them to room temperature before using them in baking or cooking.  They can be substituted for the nuts called for in any recipe.  The recipes here are from www.hazelnut.com.

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread

 3 c. sugar

1 c. cooking oil

4 eggs

2 c. pumpkin

1 c. water

4 c. flour

2 t. salt

½ t. baking powder

2 c. chopped hazelnuts

2 t. baking soda

1 cup raisins

1 t. cloves

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. allspice

Blend sugar and oil, add eggs and pumpkin.  Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices together.  Add to first mixture, alternating with the water.  Add raisins and hazelnuts.  Divide batter into three large greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Walleye Sauteed in Hazelnut Crust

Serves 6

6 walleye fillets, boned and skinned, 6-8 oz. each

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour

¾ c. fresh bread crumbs

¾ c. finely ground hazelnuts

1 egg beaten with 2 T. milk

½ c. clarified butter

 Preheat oven to 350° F.  Preheat two large skillets to medium hot.  Mix hazelnuts with breadcrumbs.  Season and dust fish with flour.  Dip fillets in the beaten egg, then coat with hazelnut and crumb mixture on both sides.  Shake excess crumbs off.  Heat the butter in pans.  Brown fish on one side, turn and brown the other side.  Transfer fish to a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 3 minutes.

Baked Chicken with Sweet Hazelnut Glaze

Serves 4

4 8 oz. boneless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T. unsalted butter

¼ c. shallots, minced

2/3 c. hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

  1. T. Cognac

2/3 c. apricot preserves

Season chicken and lay closely together in a shallow pan.  Preheat oven to 375° F.   Melt butter in a skillet and saute the shallots until golden.  Add hazelnuts and saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in Cognac and preserves.  Remove from heat and pour over chicken.  Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more.

Frosted Hazelnuts

2 egg whites

1 c. sugar

2 T. water

1 t. salt

½ t. ground cloves

½ t. cinnamon

½ t. allspice

4 c. hazelnuts

 In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg whites.  Add sugar, water, salt, and spices; mix well.  Let stand 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved.  Add hazelnuts; stir gently to coat.  Spread into two greased 15x10x1″ baking pans.  Bake at 275° F for 50-60 minutes or until crisp.  Remove to wax paper to cool.  Store in airtight containers.

 

 

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