Home-roasting raw or blanched nuts
By roasting your own nuts you can adjust the time, temperature, and amount of salt to satisfy your own taste. You can make mixtures that contain the nuts you like best. You can buy raw nuts in bulk to save money. Roasting is not difficult but there are a lot of details you need to tend to.
Our times and temperatures are for a convection oven. You might get good results with a microwave or regular oven, but you will have to experiment first. In general, a convection oven needs to be set 25 degrees lower than a conventional oven. We have no experience with a microwave oven. We highly recommend that you use a convection oven and place an oven thermometer in the oven. The actual oven temperature will take longer to reach maximum than the preheat setting of the oven, as long as 1 hour. You will find that the nuts are not uniformly roasted in a conventional oven. With a convection oven you can use two trays, but make sure there is plenty of space all around the trays for air to flow. Nuts should have a slightly brown color inside and out when done. You will start to smell the well-roasted nuts a minute or two before they are ready. They get a bad slightly burnt flavor if you roast 2 or 3 minutes over the best time. Times may depend on your oven, the water content of the raw nuts, and the phase of the moon, so you will need to experiment with small batches first. Let the nuts fully cool before tasting.
Nuts taste better when salted. Some like more, others less since too much salt is not good for us. When you shake a salt shaker over nuts, most will not stick and settle to the bottom unless you add oil. Nuts already have plenty of oil so we prefer to not add more. The best way to make the salt stick is to use dissolved salt in water as a brine. A saturated brine solution (the most salt you can dissolve) contains about 6 tablespoons (tbsp) of salt (about a third of a cup) per cup of water. It takes only a teaspoon (tsp) of this brine to completely cover a cup of nuts, but it is faster to wet the nuts in a sieve in an excess of brine, then drain well. To reduce the amount of salt on the nuts, you need to reduce the concentration of salt in the brine, not add less brine. We find wetting with saturated brine is too much salt for our taste and so make a half-saturated brine with 3 tbsp of salt per cup of water. We brine for a short time so the salt all ends up on the surface where it has the most effect. If you want more salt than saturated brine gives you (not recommended) then you will need to soak the nuts in saturated brine for some length of time (maybe hours). When making saturated brine, add 1 cup salt to 3 cups water; if it doesn’t completely dissolve, no problem just leave undissolved salt in the bottom of the bowl. Calculation for saturated brine: 36 g/100 ml = 360 kg/m3 = 1.27 oz/0.42 cups = 3.02 oz/cup = 6.04 tbsp/cup = 1.12 cup salt/3 cups water. It is best to use Kosher salt that does not contain iodine. Again, we use brine at half this strength.
Although the basic recipe is the same for all nuts (except for time), there are some differences to be noted. Peanuts are a favorite and less expensive so we usually add more of them (twice) in mixes. Best to buy blanched peanuts and filberts/hazelnuts since that process removes the skin. If your raw filberts have a skin, it should be removed as explained in the recipe. Walnuts have a skin that leaves a bitter aftertaste but we do not have a method for removing it. Pecans, Walnuts, and Pepitas tend to hold on to more of the brine so you might want to add more water to dilute the brine.
- Preheat convection oven to 325°F. We recommend monitoring with an oven thermometer
- Make brine with 1 cup kosher salt in 6 cups hot water in a large mixing bowl, stir until dissolved
- Roast Pecans, Walnuts, and Pepitas last and add 2 or 3 more cups of water to dilute the brine
- Re-use the brine for multiple batches then dispose of remainder when done
- Measure 2 cups nuts for a 9-inch tray or 4 cups (mason jar) for a 12×18 tray
- Place nuts into a sieve and dip into brine and stir until all nuts are completely wet
- Shake the sieve and let nuts drip for a minute to remove extra brine
- Spread nuts onto the warm dry tray so you have a single layer
- Place in oven and don’t forget to start the timer
- Half way through open oven to release steam and switch trays if you are using two of them
- Cool a few (in the freezer) then taste them and break open to check color
- Start with these times that work for us, then try longer or shorter times and/or (maybe better) higher or lower temperature to taste. If they get dark and have a burnt flavor for these times, you definitely need to lower the temperature. Times are for raw, shelled nuts only. Times may vary depending on the water content.
- Blanched Peanuts: 25 minutes
- Dry Filbert/hazelnuts: 20 minutes
- Blanched (wet) Filbert/hazelnuts: 25 minutes
- Pecans: 17 minutes
- Almonds: 25 minutes
- Walnuts: 15 minutes
- Pistachios: 17 minutes
- Cashews: 15 minutes
- Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds): 20 minutes, stir halfway
- Sunflower seeds: 20 minutes, stir halfway
After nuts have cooled, place in an air-tight container. They should last for a month or two at room temperature. For longer storage, place in freezer. You should also freeze any raw nuts you are not roasting now.
It is best to buy peanuts and filberts that have been blanched to remove the skin. If peanuts or filberts have a skin, with great effort you can remove after roasting and cooling as follows. Place a single layer on a large towel on the counter, then roll around with your hands. To remove the chaff, place a fan on a table outside, then pour nuts from one large bowl into another in front of the fan. Repeat 2 or 3 times as necessary.
To remove skin by blanching before roasting: Boil 4 cups of water with 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a large pot. Add 4 cups filberts and boil for 4 minutes. Drain in a sieve then immediately cool in running cold water. Take a handful and rub between your hands then place in another bowl and rinse the skins off of your hands. Repeat until all are in second bowl, then repeat process back into first bowl. Dry on a towel and remove any remaining skins with your fingers. Roast brine the wet nuts soon and leave in the oven a little longer than you would dry nuts (25 minutes).
Try hot smoking the nuts after roasting, 1-2 hours with temperature around 250°F to keep them dry.
Try spices added to the brine, or sprinkled onto the wet nuts after brining. Rosemary and pepper are commonly used with nuts.
Roast nuts separately first, then mix in batches. We fill mason jars and cap them as soon as they cool since they will absorb water quickly when sitting out in humid weather. Then we mix batches in a large mixing bowl: two jars peanuts; one jar pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, pepitas and sunflower seeds. We mix thoroughly with a large spoon then pour into jars and quickly add lids. We freeze any jars that will not be eaten within the month.
All nuts have similar calories per ounce, and all are rich in nutrients and healthy additions to any diet. A number of studies have found that nuts can help cut the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and aid weight loss. Weight loss is important for reducing risk for many health problems. Nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids with their valuable anti-inflammatory action. Nuts have healthy antioxidants which offer protection against cancer, heart disease, and nerve diseases. Nuts are a rich source of minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, fluoride and selenium. Nuts also have healthy levels of vitamins E and B.
Researchers at Harvard University found in recent large studies that “Higher consumption of total and specific types of nuts was inversely associated with total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.” Reference: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 70, Issue 20, November 2017
Peanuts are less healthy compared to walnuts, but are still good for you. Peanut butter with no added sugar and not eaten with other sweet things (such as jelly) is just as good for you as whole peanuts, but most peanut butter has added sugar and too much sodium and is eaten with white bread and so should be avoided.
Consumer reports article dated Nov 13, 2017
Nuts nutrition facts: www.nutrition-and-you.com/nuts_nutrition.html
Nuts for losing weight?
Nuts have a mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. These ingredients will help you feel full and suppress your appetite. So if you eat an ounce or two an hour before a meal, you will tend to eat less total calories for the nuts plus meal. We have found that a good way to lose weight is to exercise and skip a meal on the same day; to keep off the hunger pains we eat a handful of nuts and drink a beer or two.
Where to buy
You will find raw bulk nuts in your local supermarket, but definitely check out prices on Amazon.com and anuts.com. They ship well so buying on-line is an wise decision.
-- David Elmore