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~ How to: Remove the Skin from Hazelnuts/Filberts ~

IMG_5107I love hazelnuts.  I always have.  I am the one who inconspicuously picks them out of the bowl of mixed nuts at the neighborhood cocktail party.  I always have a pound or two of unsalted hazelnuts in my freezer and a bottle of extract in my pantry, because I prefer them to other nuts in many baked goods and confections.  I keep a relatively pricey bottle of fragrant French hazelnut oil in my refrigerator to make salad dressings, I keep hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico) at my bar to make cocktails, and, I put hazelnut-flavored creamer in my coffee.  I do not like Nutella.

Why are hazelnuts referred to as filberts (and vice versa)?

FilbertsI have no clue -- botanically, they don't even grow on the same trees. The most accepted  explanation is: hazelnuts mature around St. Filbert's Day (August 20th). The filbert (a member of the "corylas" species) is larger and more elongated than the round hazlenut (a member of the "birch" family). Once cracked open their meats tastes the same -- rich and sweet -- which is why the terms are used interchangeably.  Turkey supplies the world with 75% of them.  Italy, Spain and France produce the rest. The US imported its  hazelnuts until Oregon and Washington began mass production in the 1940's.

Why do I have to remove the skin from hazelnuts?

IMG_5116The slightly-annoying thing about the whole, unsalted hazelnuts used in cooking and baking is: unless you purchase them blanched (blanching is one method for removing the skin), each one has a thin, papery, slightly-bitter-tasting skin on it that should be removed.  It's not a must, the skin is quite harmless and nontoxic, but:  because it is papery, like paper, it will burn at high temperatures, and, as we all know, what looks burned, tastes burned.  It also isn't pretty to look it, so, picky cooks and bakers prefer to take it off.  The good news is, this isn't too hard to do!

IMG_5192About the blanching method:  It works, but, it is not easier, faster or better.  I'm sharing it to be fair to those who prefer it, so you can judge for yourself.  In a 4-quart stockpot, bring 1-quart of water to a boil with 4 tablespoons of baking soda.  The water will foam up.  Add 2 cups of whole hazelnuts and boil for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts from the boiling water to a bowl of ice water. Use your fingers to remove the skin -- one nut at a time.  If skin doesn't slip off easily, return nuts to boiling water for 1-2 more minutes and repeat process.  In a nutshell, I find this process to be seriously nuts, and very hard on my manicure too. Note:  For less than $20 I can purchase 2-pounds of blanched hazelnuts and get on with my life. 

My favorite method is:  Toasting/Roasting.

This is my favorite method because I appreciate the added benefit of the lovely lightly-toasted flavor that only oven roasting can add to the hazelnuts.  Surprisingly, some people complain about this method because they say it is impossible to completely remove all of the skin from the hazelnuts, and, it leaves you with a stained kitchen towel as well.  Seriously?  Let's chat:

IMG_5132Yes, small chards of skin remain on the nuts in the end, but, I gladly exchange a few harmless bits of skin for the remarkable flavor. There's more, almost all of the chards fall off when you chop the nuts.  As for the stained towel? This old, cotton flour-sack towel has removed the skins from many hazelnuts in its day.  The crinkly cloth works well when rubbing the skins off the the nuts, and, a bit of bleach soaks out the stains too!  

IMG_5129~ Step 1.  Spread the whole hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking pan.  I have put 2 cups of whole hazelnuts (do not chop the nuts first) in an 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan, the kind with the corrugated bottom.   Place pan on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, until the skins are darkening and the IMG_5145nuts are fragrant, about 10-12 minutes, stopping to stir/toss with a spoon about every 2 minutes.  This occasional stirring will insure you keep a close eye on them and keep any nuts from burning in spots. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer them to a kitchen towel that has been placed over a large bowl (see/read below).

IMG_5146^The nuts are properly toasted when the skins are split.^

IMG_5141 IMG_5153~ Step 2. Place the towel over a large bowl. Remove the nuts from the oven and dump them into the towel while they are steaming hot. IMG_5154Package the towel up around the nuts and cover w/a lid or plastic.

IMG_5166 IMG_5157~ Step 3. Set aside for about 5 minutes. This will give the skins time to steam and soften a bit. Do not let the nuts cool.  Remove the cover (lid or plastic wrap).  Lift up the package of nuts and begin vigorously rubbing them against themselves as hard and as fast as you can.  This will remove the toughest and largest of the skins.

IMG_5169Step 4.  To continue removing more of the skins, spray the package of nuts with a generous misting of water.  Cover the bowl and place it in the microwave on high for 2 more minutes.  Uncover and vigorously rub the nuts again.  

Note:  Repeat this misting-microwaving process until you are satisfied.  I put these in the microwave 3 times today.  Including the roasting process, it took me a total of 30 minutes to remove the skins from these hazelnuts:

IMG_5175How to:  Remove the Skin from Hazelnuts/Filberts:  Recipe yields instructions to remove the skins from 2 cups of hazelnuts.

Special Equipment List:  11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan, the kind with the corrugated bottom; cotton dish towel; large glass bowl w/lid or plastic wrap; spray bottle for misting water

6a0120a8551282970b016303dc1dd1970dCook's Note:  In case you didn't know, little bit of roasting or toasting goes a long way to enhance the flavor of any type of nut and seeds. To get my detailed instructions, along with some tips about different varieties of nuts and seeds (including pumpkins seeds, which are in season right now), read ~ How to:  Roast/Toast Most Nuts and Some Seeds ~.  You can find it by clicking into Category 15, along with all of my other "How To" posts!

"We are all in this food world together. ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


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