We were fortunate to have access to an established and multi-cultivar hazel grove this autumn. While picking them up can be a time-consuming job, I prefer to think of it as a time of connecting with nature. The fossicking amongst the fallen leaves and old nut shells is a bit like gathering treasures under the dappled shade of the hazel trees.
We put the nuts up in our drying cupboard for a couple of weeks before I got around to our flour trial. Cracking by hand provided tedious until I decided to try putting them in an old towel on the concrete, I then folded the towel over the top to stop missiles and tapped them firmly enough, through the towel, to crack the shell. This was very successful with ½ a kg cracked and sorted in a short time, much faster than the hand held nut cracker. From 500g of nuts I weighed 185g of hazelnut flesh, the nut shells will find a use in the compost or as biochar. At this stage some might blanch the nuts to remove the inner skin, but that just seems like extra unnecessary work so we will process with the extra indigestible fibre (good for keeping you regular!)
I used the old flour grinder to process most of the nut flesh into a course meal, then processed the rest with our food processors grinding attachment. This resulted in a much finer flour and only took about 30 seconds. Both of these flours were used to make a low carb cookie recipe and the rest will be used in our next loaf of keto bread. Most nut and seed flours are interchangeable so it will mainly be a flavour and possibly a colour change. The flour worked well though I did notice I had to add a bit more liquid to the cookie dough.
The fats in nuts can go rancid over time so the flour is best stored in the fridge or freezer, otherwise leave the nuts in their shell and only process what you will use in a week. Try to make sure all the nut shell pieces are removed as biting them in a cookie is not a nice experience.
Here’s some more info on Hazel trees.
Though more of a deciduous shrub than a tree, the Hazel is one of the most useful woodlot plants. Fast growing and multi stemmed it can still reach 12 m or more in height if left to grow. But Hazels are often coppiced and the many straight stems produced have many uses. Both the pendulous male catkins and small female flowers are born on the same tree and are wind pollenated. In nut production a different cultivar of pollinator Hazel is often necessary to achieve high pollination rates. These early spring flowers can provide early feed for bees. While mostly known for its nuts, the Hazel leaves are also a highly palatable forage for livestock. Widely used as a hedgerow plant, many English villages would often have an area of Hazel coppice, which was traditionally cut on a seven-year cycle. Hazel is the traditional material of hurdle making (woven fence panels) due to its ability, when twisted, to form a strong ‘rope’ of separated fibers. This means the wood can be twisted back upon its self to form the woven panels of the hurdle. Other uses include thatching spars, walking sticks, garden stakes, garden climbing frames, baskets, traps, crates and many other useful everyday items.