what to do with green hazelnuts
We have two hazelnut trees in our yard, here in D.C. Usually, the squirrels get the entire crop, which is typically quite small. This year, however, there appears to be a bumper crop forming. A few green ones have fallen, cloaked in their frilly green wrappers, and many more could be shaken from the trees. We saw green hazelnuts that looked just like these, for sale in the Food Court at Harrod's when we were in London last August. We didn't find out how they were intended to be consumed, though. Does anyone out there know? I cut one of ours open, and it tasted slightly sour and astringent. Or should we just wait longer, risk more squirrel predation and see if they taste better?
I am facing a similar quandary, since the walnut tree in front of my place and another up the block are heavy with green walnuts. The fine cookbook, "Room for Dessert," contains a recipe for an Italian walnut liqueur, called "nocino," which I hope to make with three dozen green walnuts, but I'd also like to dry some.
You are a lucky man.
One fond memory I have as a child visiting Kashmir, was the green walnuts. I and the servants (yes non-pc but it was india)would climb the trees and bring down the green walnuts. You have to be careful opening them up as the inner coat of the green ones will stain your hand and it is very hard to get out.
but when you do the taste of the walnut-plain unvarnished out of the the incompletely formed shell is the taste of spring in those mountains to me.
As an aside (speaking of nuts. One of my favorite festivals was (and it may be completely gone now never to return with the war there) was the celebration my mother told me about of spring when the almond trees flowered in Srinagar.
Folks took rugs, and full, full, full picnic spreads to one of the famous mughal gardens and the whole community had picnics under the trees.
My husband Fred and I are just finishing work on a book about nuts to be published in fall 2002. We've been lucky enough to do some interesting travel for this...but not nearly as much as we would have liked.
We did spend time in California's Central Vally during Almond flower season. Even tho it was raining nearly all the time, I can certainly understand why such a bloom would be the reason for a holiday. Sadly, there is no discernable flour for the walnut.
Green walnuts are used for nocino. It is, however, a lengthy process, requiring a quantity greater than 3 dozen nuts, I fear... but the end results were sublime. We sampled some near Parma, Italy, and some more in Modena. Green walnuts have also been used for pickled walnuts, too. I have come across some discussions in some of the early cookbooks. I seem to recall that A Virginia Housewife discussed both pickled walnuts and walnut catsup. I am about to leave town for the better part of 4 weeks right now, otherwise I would offer more specific information.
I do have a charming recipe to offer. It is for Green almonds, but I suspect it might work well for green hazelnuts:
Green Almond Salad
from "Nuts The Cookbook" by Linda and Fred Griffith, to be published by St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Georgiana Hill was a 19th century British food writer. Among a small, soft-cover series called Household Manuals, there is ¡°Salads; How to Dress Them in One Hundred Different Ways.¡± This is an irresistible treasure adapted from Georgiana Hill's book published in 1867. And while we are rarely fortunate enough to have access to green almonds one can still enjoy the refreshing flavor almonds impart to a simple lettuce salad. According to Miss Hill, this is a delicious salad to serve with roast lamb or turkey.
1/2 cup blanched and coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more if needed
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably from Provence or Nice, plus
more if needed
4 cups of torn butter lettuce
Freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped blanched almonds, preferably fresh
Using a mortar and pestle, combine almonds and sea salt. Pound into a paste, then gradually combine paste with lemon juice. Gradually combine with olive oil to make a thick emulsion. Taste and adjust, adding more salt, lemon juice or olive oil as needed.
Combine almond vinaigrette and lettuce in a salad bowl. Add white pepper and toss thoroughly. Garnish with chopped almonds and serve.
I wish I had a nocino recipe to offer. Truthfully, I wish I had more nocino, too!
re: Linda Griffith
I grew up in a neighborhood that had been carved out of a filbert orchard (I was about 15 before I realized that hazelnuts were really filberts), and remnants of the original orchard were a favorite playground. We would collect the nuts and roast them in aluminum pie tins in the fireplace...the "green" nuts, still in their frilly paper cover, were typically thrown at the other neighborhood kids.
Filberts are "ripe" when they fall from the tree and the outer cover is starting to come off. Like all nuts, they should be dried for awhile, and you can do this by leaving them in a dry spot for a few weeks or hurry the process with a food drier or gas oven with a pilot light. Then they can be shelled (be sure to remove the little stick-like piece of the inner shell before using) or left in the shell for storage.
I have a walnut tree in front of my house, and we're usually overwhelmed with walnuts. Collect them from the ground and peel off the outer cover (wear gloves or be ready for weeks of blackened fingers), then dry.
I've yet to make nocino, but plan to start a batch soon. An Italian friend says my walnuts need to get a bit bigger, but the recipe calls for about a dozen green nuts for a fifth (or 750 ml) of grain alcohol. The nuts are cut into quarters and macerated for a few months, then the alcohol is strained and cut with sugar syrup to about 80 proof.
I hoped someone would respond with a good answer. Look at this link. I don't know that it has the solution, but may give you a lead.
I have a feeling that if you roast them at 250 - 300 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes, they will taste much better. I often put hazelnuts in my cereal and make hazelnut ice cream. I always roast, but my source is retail so I don't know what processing has already happened. The nuts I get are not green.
I do recommend eating them as they are, although you shouldn't have to use a knife- you an easily crack the inner nascent-nutshell with your teeth after you peel off the frills. They should taste almost milky if you've hit them at the right time. Of course, if you don't like the taste... Perhaps they need a bit more time, but I adore them- looking for them, quite fruitlessly, in NYC.
I wouldn't recommend eating too much raw hazelnuts, Turkish folk suggests that they give you the runs that would last a few days. Never tried them myself, but don't want to risk. This could all be a myth, but I have worked as a consultant for the giant hazelnut co-op in a small town in the Turkish side of the Black sea (where reportedly 70 percent of world hazelnut production is made), and eating hazelnuts before they were sun dried was a forbidden love. Everyone said you shouldn't do it, but I bet everyone secretly did. I didn't, but I wasn't a chowhound then. What a friggin way to waste a chow opportunity!
First of all, are they baby hazelnuts, or in other words, unripe? Or did they survive the squirrels and became ripe already? Then what you need to do is dry them under the sun for a few days; it is said that this removes their unpleasant side effects, perhaps evaporates or changes some compound? I bet you can roast them at slow temp to replicate the process.
If they are still at the baby stage, with not much shell formation (think like an unformed egg shell, soft and flexible), then I think you can preserve them. I haven't seen hazelnut preserves, but young walnuts and pistachios (in their shells) in sugar syrup is a common delicacy in the Middle East.