What elation to gather the hazelnuts before the squirrels made off with the entire harvest. We felt a bit smug, having just outsmarted bears who make off with plums, too.
What a pleasure to shuck them, sitting on the back step with the children, like shucking corn both in word and in action. Albeit with enough repetition to cause a couple of blisters.
What a delight to set them in a basket to dry in a warm room, and watch the pale green deepen to that hazelnut brown.
And what a disappointment to find them all empty, not a single nutmeat amongst them. All our plans for hazelnut torte, or honeynuts! Dashed. Back to buying cobnuts at the shops. The hazels were recruited for an autumn display, beautiful but slightly unfortunate, like an ornamental cherry in spring. Do you gather nuts from local trees before the creatures take them all? What do you do with them?
We’ve been lucky enough to forage wild nuts this autumn, something I’ve never done. Walnuts and sweet chestnuts have been squirrelled away for winter. When the children spotted cobnuts, a cultivated hazelnut, in a box at the farm shop we couldn’t resist taking some home. We have a hazel in Canada, but the nuts are usually thoroughly harvested by creatures before we can get any.
There’s a lovely, simple recipe for preserving hazelnuts in honey in my beloved copy of River Cottage Preserves. After many days of looking at those cobnuts I decided we’d best try it out.
I’m very fond of my rod rolling pin and a clean cloth for anything requiring a good bashing, from pounding bread crumbs to cracking nuts. It’s great, satisfying fun to tuck the cobnuts into the cloth and smack them with the pin til they give a resounding crack. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it.
The children pull the kernels out of the broken shells and husks with their nimble little fingers. A few are simply hollow, they call those ones ghosts.
Toast them in a hot, dry pan, keeping them moving til they release a lovely scent.
Then pack them into honey! Honey nuts, how simple and great. Preserves recommends layering nuts and honey, but our jar was too large. Really there shouldn’t be so much honey, but that’s not really a problem. They should keep this way very well through the cold months.