Nuts & Seeds
Nuts are plant seeds or fruit encased in a shell or hull or woody fiber. The nut kernel is the inner edible part of the nut, also called the nutmeat. The husk is the rough outer covering which encases the shell and kernel.
Some nuts are classified as fruits or vegetables. For example, the peanut is really a member of the pea family and the almond is part of the peach family.
The kernels, or nutmeats, are extremely high in protein and fat, and contain vitamins and minerals. Nuts can be eaten fresh from the shell, roasted or added to other foods. Their crunchy texture, high nutritive value and delicious flavor enhance appetizers, main dishes, salads, vegetables, breads, desserts and candies.
Once harvested, nuts either in the shell or out of the shell should be dried to a relatively low moisture content to store well.
Drying Nuts & Seeds - How to Begin
Select intact and reasonably well-shaped nuts with clean, bright shells. The nut with the shell should be heavy for its size. This usually indicates a fresh, meaty kernel.
The drying of most nuts and seeds should begin soon after harvesting, usually within 24 hours.
Little preparation is needed for most nuts. To sort, immerse the nuts in water, removing and discarding those that float. This also removes dirt and insects which may have accumulated on the shells. Shelling nuts first lessens drying time, but dried shelled nuts must be refrigerated or frozen. Nuts dried and stored in the shell will keep several months at room temperature.
How to Dry Nuts & Seeds
Spread nuts in a single layer on drying trays, letting air circulate freely on all sides. The optimum drying temperature is from 90°- 100°F (30° to 40°C) Temperatures above 100°F (40°C) will shorten the storage life and affect the flavor. Shelled nuts must be protected from contamination. If you sun dry them, cover them with cheesecloth. Peanuts and Seeds may be dried at slightly higher temperatures.
Small amounts of unshelled nuts can be dried in a furnace room, an attic, or on a radiator, as long as the temperature does not exceed 100°F (40°C).
They will be dry in 24 - 48hours. Shelled nuts may be dried in the same way as long as they are covered with cheesecloth to protect them from dust. If your dehydrator can be adjusted to a low enough temperature, it is ideal for drying nuts because circulation is much better than in room drying. Unshelled nuts will dry in 8 to 10 hours in a dehydrator. Oven drying is not recommended for nuts because it is difficult to keep the temperature low enough.
Nuts are dry when their shells have hardened to a brittle state. Crack one. The nutmeat should be tender but not shriveled by overdrying. Nuts stored in the shell should contain roughly 7 to 8 percent moisture for the best storage stability; shelled nuts about 3 to 5 percent. Depending on the amount of moisture and the weight of the shell, the yield from different nuts will vary. In general, 1 pound of unshelled nuts will yield the following:
Almonds , 6 1/2 ounces
Brazil nuts, 8 ounces
filberts, pecans or English walnuts, 7 ounces
or black walnuts, 3 1/2 ounces
Packing and Storing
Nuts in Shell - Store them in airtight plastic, metal or glass containers below 70° F (20°C). As with other dried foods, the lower the storage temperature, the longer the storage life. Because nuts contain so much oil and fat, they quickly rancid at higher temperatures. Nuts in the shell may also be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer, although they will take a lot of space.
Shelled Nuts - Package them in airtight plastic or glass containers or heavy plastic bags and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure they are packaged well or they will absorb odors and flavors from other foods. They will not keep longer than 1 to 2 months at room temperature. When nuts are refrigerated or frozen, let the container return to room temperature before opening. This prevents the cold nuts from drawing moisture from the air, which will cause them to mold or turn rancid more quickly.
Roasted or toasted nuts and seeds have a fuller flavor compared to raw dried nuts or seeds. They are heated to 250°-300°F (120°-150°C) and may be coated with oil, salt or other seasonings while they are being roasted.
Roasted nuts and seeds have a shorter shelf life than dried nuts and should be eaten within 2 to 3 weeks after they have been roasted. The dried nuts and seeds best for roasting are: