My First Hazelnut Harvest

My first hazelnut season is here! In France, the hazelnut harvest takes place generally between August to November, depending on the varieties and the weather. My hazelnut bush has started to drop hazelnuts since mid-August.

Daily Routine: Hazelnut Collection Rounds

For the past few weeks, I have been doing my hazelnut collection rounds two to three times a day, starting with a pre-breakfast round. The day starts with at least a palmful of hazelnuts and then follows by two to three palmfuls for each of the remaining rounds. The harvest is greater when it’s windy; the wind simply lends a helping hand to the already ripened hazelnuts that barely cling onto the bush. 

I usually just collect those fallen hazelnuts within the house compound. The hazelnuts gathered from the compound accounts for 95% of the harvest. However, remembering the advice of our elderly neighbour living across the street, I will open the gate and step out to collect those that have fallen on the public walk path. One of the first pieces of advice that our helpful neighbour gave us when we just moved in was that we should collect our hazelnuts before they get swipe by passersby. 

Local produce! Freshly from the bush!

A Side Note

It’s silly, but I do feel a little embarrassed when I gather the  hazelnuts from the public walk path. The emotion seems to have stemmed from two sources: (a) I might be perceived as stealing hazelnuts (b) I might be perceived as a scrooge, too parsimonious to buy hazelnuts.

The logical part of me knows that my emotion is absurd. Firstly, from the legal point, anyone can gather the fallen hazelnuts since they are found in a public area. Besides, doesn’t the fact that the hazelnuts come from my hazelnut bush mean that I have ‘more ownership’ to pick them up? Secondly, as the saying goes, ‘Waste Not, Want Not’. Why should I should I spend good money on something that I can get it chez moi? Besides, I have just discovered that hazelnuts are one of my favourite foods. 

Despite the above reasoning, the irrational feeling still  occasionally rears its ugly head. That’s why I do not always pick the ones outside; I will only do that in the morning if I happen to wake up early enough and there is not a soul stirring. Or, I will pick them on my way back after I finish a run or after I park the car outside the gate. The fact that I am already outside (vs. I am going out JUST to pick the nuts) attenuate the ludicrous feeling of embarrassment.

Home-Made Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

After two weeks of two-to-three times daily collections, I have squirrelled enough hazelnuts to use them in the kitchen. Since my other half wants chocolates as a birthday present, I have decided to make good use of our home-grown hazelnuts and baked him chocolate hazelnuts truffles. 

Main Steps For Chocolate Hazelnuts Truffles

These are what I pick up : clusters of hazelnut seed pods. Each cluster generally consists of 2 to 5 seed pods. When they are fully ripe, the husks will split. Most of the times, I will pick up a cluster with the nuts still in the husks. Sometimes, I can find the nuts already removed from the husks.

Chocolate hazelnut truffles recipes can be found easily on the internet. The main ingredients consist usually of heavy fresh cream, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, vanilla essence, coffee and some liqueur. There are only a few steps in making the truffles: 

  1. Roast the hazelnuts for 10minutes and chop (NOT grind) them up.
  2. Heat up the heavy fresh cream and melt the chocolate in them. Add vanilla essence, coffee and liqueur into the chocolate cream. 
  3. Refrigerate the mixture for around 1h.
  4.  Make tablespoon scoops of the chocolate cream and spread them onto a tray. Put them back into the refrigerator for another 15minutes or so, until they semi-harden (the texture reminds me of plasticine clay).
  5.  Mould each scoop of (4) into a ball shape and cover it with the chopped hazelnuts. Refrigerate again. 

Know Your Hazelnuts The Fun Way

If you buy all the ingredients from the store, the preparation work is quite straight forward and fast (excluding the refrigeration time). However, since I am using home-grown hazelnuts, and it’s the first time I am using raw hazelnuts AND making truffles, the preparation time takes much longer. 

Nevertheless, it is a fun way to get to know my hazelnuts.

After peeling off the outer husks, you get the hard shelled nuts.
We do not have a proper hazelnut cracker. I improvised by using a meat tenderiser! It did the job: edible kernels with the thin, reddish-brown papery skins still attached to the kernels. However, it might be a little messy when you hit the nut with the tenderiser. The cracked hard shell may fly in all directions.
From the small hole found on the hard shell, you know that someone else has stolen the edible part. It's useless to try to crack open the hard shell. It's either empty or rotten inside.

Tasting the hazelnuts every few minutes...

After cracking the hard shells, the edible kernels are removed (either with or without the thin, papery reddish-brown skins still attached to the kernels). I need self-discipline while doing this task; the raw nuts are already quite tasty without further processing and I need to remind myself not to keep popping kernels into my mouth every few minutes. If not, it would be nightfall before I get my 150g of raw nuts for the recipe.

The next step is to roast the kernels for 10 minutes. Imagine the fresh from the oven taste of hazelnuts…

My kitchen robot did such a good job. I was hoping for crushed hazelnuts; instead, I got fine ground hazelnuts.
Voila! First attempt of homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles, and they taste not too bad 🙂 I should try to CHOP the hazelnuts next time, and not grind them to powder. It will definitely give a more 'hazelnutty' taste!

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