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PROCESSING MACADAMIA NUTS

PROCESSING MACADAMIA NUTS

Nou ja as jy graag “nuts” wil gaan, dan lees jy eers die hele storie deur en dis nogal lank. Dan kry jy jou ‘nuts’ in jou eie tuin en volg die proses en as jy klaar is voel jy ook “nuts”. Geen wonder dit is so duur in die winkels nie. En ja, ek het nog al my vingers… hulle is baie hard om oop te kraak. – Aldus Elize.

Proper processing of macadamia nuts is critical to having a crunchy, tasty nut to eat. If you don’t do all the steps, you can end up with nuts that never will have a crisp snap when you bite into it. So, here are things to keep in mind from the time you harvest the nuts through to the nut being ready to eat.

Husking:
Husk the nuts as soon as possible after harvesting. With the Cate variety the husks split on the tree and fall off. Pick them up at least once a week during harvest time and remove the husks as soon as possible, like within a day or two. If you leave the husks on, the nuts will soon develop a mildew which will quickly effect the colour of the shell and give the nut meats a musty taste. Also, the longer you leave the husks on, the harder they are to get off as they dry out and become hard. So, the sooner you can husk them the better.

Air drying:
When the nuts are first harvested, they have a high moisture content and the natural oils have not yet developed. The nuts need to be air dried, in shade, for at least two weeks to reduce the moisture content and to allow the oils to develop. If you crack the nuts before this drying they taste a little like coconut and not much of a nutty flavour. Ideally, the nuts can be placed on drying racks which allow a lot of air to circulate on all sides. Not more than two nuts deep on a wire mesh tray. After this two week drying, the nuts are ready to be delivered to the warehouse, or for your home drying.

Culling:
It is very important to sort your nuts. Take out the nuts with obvious problems like cracks, worm holes or discoloration. Undersized nuts also have to be removed (under 12 mm).

Oven drying:
At the warehouse the nuts are dried in a walk-in dryer, for at least another 48 hours at 40 – 43 °C. to reduce the moisture to around one percent. The shell will become brittle too, so it is easier to crack the shell without damaging the nut meat. A kitchen oven at the lowest warm setting, or a food dehydrator at the nut setting (around 40 °C) for two to three days. Take a few nuts after 48 hours and test them by cracking them open and biting into them to see if they are crunchy. If they are still a little chewy, give them another 24 hours or so. Test a couple again. You can over-dry them. The time it takes for this drying is determined by how much moisture was removed during the air drying step.

Storing dried nuts:
Once the nuts are dried and are crunchy, you can store them in a sealed container in a cool, dry place or in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. A heavy plastic bag will prevent nuts from reabsorbing moisture. Store the macadamia nuts in a cool place until you’re ready to use them. A heavy plastic bag will prevent nuts from reabsorbing moisture. You can crack the nuts and store the meats in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator. The nuts store well, are tasty, and ready to eat. However, you may prefer them roasted.

To roast your macadamia nut meats:
Pre-heat your oven to 107 – 121 °C (or closest setting if you do not have an oven thermometer). Place nut meats in a shallow pan, no more than two deep.
You may want to spritz the nuts with salty water just before you put them in the oven to give them a light, salty taste. Roast pieces that are close in size at the same time. Avoid roasting small meats and half pieces with larger whole nuts. They will roast unevenly and possibly scorch the large nuts.
Roast the nuts for 10 to 15 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally. Watch them carefully. They can scorch quickly. Remove from the oven as soon as they begin to turn the lightest brown. The browning process will continue a short while after their out of the oven because of the nut oils continue to hold a high temperature. Cool them quickly to stop the roasting process.
Since there are variation in nuts, oven temperatures, etc., it is best to monitor the process closely and adjust your times and temperatures to produce the colour, flavour and texture to satisfy your taste. Once you have removed the nuts from the oven, you may want to stir with dab of butter or naturally flavoured oil, or a sprinkle of salt to flavour. Serve hot or cool, or store in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator.

Photo: Elize de Kock
Information borrowed from Gold Crown Macadamia Association.

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