Picking and preparing freshly foraged hazelnuts was both a frustrating and ultimately satisfying experience. Hazelnuts are a good choice to collect for the novice forager as there is little that they can be confused with and they are very tasty, much better than shop bought varieties. However, the little blighters are very good at disguising themselves with husky leaves that are excellent camouflage, which can easily fool the untrained eyes of expectant ‘food-for-free’ foragers.
I had been told that there were hazelnuts in a particular area where I walk, but at first I couldn’t see them at all and arrived back empty handed moaning about all those greedy squirrels who had obviously eaten or buried the entire year’s harvest. However, not to be defeated I read a little more about these elusive nuts and realised that I may not have looked closely enough. So I went back the next day and happily discovered huge numbers of the camouflaged little beggers hiding under the leaves of the hazel trees in small clusters.
I returned home with a basket full of them and feeling very smug indeed.
I let them dry in the basket for a few days, giving them a little shake now and again to keep the air circulating and preventing them from becoming mouldy. Letting them dry out a bit made de-husking them a piece of cake. Though it was a few hours of tedious work, which was followed by another few hours of even more tedious work cracking the nuts. I used a standard metal nutcracker for this.
However, this activity also proved to be very frustrating, as around a third or more of the hazelnuts were ‘blind’ and therefore completely empty inside! I was beginning to wonder whether all this hard work was going to be worth the end result, especially as I hadn’t yet decided what I was going to do with them.
Eventually, after looking through a few recipes I decided that I would attempt to make my own forager’s version of one of mine and my daughter’s favourite spreads… Nutella.
If you have the stamina and faith to have a go at this, let me assure you, you won’t be disappointed!
Forager’s Nutella Recipe
2 cups (8 ounces) hazelnuts
1 cup icing sugar OR for a healthy sugar-free version a third to half a cup of stevia.
⅓ cup cocoa powder or 1/4 cup of raw cacao
2 tablespoons hazelnut or coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet and roast until dark brown and fragrant, around 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they can go from perfectly roasted to completely incinerated in 60 seconds.
- Transfer the hazelnuts to a large jar.
- Once the hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, secure the jar top. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds to remove the skins of the hazelnuts. It may take a few times to get all of the skins off. Periodically you should remove the hazelnuts that have lost their skin to the bowl of a food processor, then continue shaking.
Process the hazelnuts in a food processor until their oil is released and they form a smooth paste, around 5 minutes, should do it. Scrape the sides of the bowl down frequently so no nuts are missed.
- Add the icing sugar or stevia, cocoa powder, hazelnut or coconut oil, vanilla extract and salt.
Process until fully mixed and silky smooth, about 2 – 5 minutes. The mixture should become slightly more runny and glossy.
- Transfer the spread to a sterilised jar with a tight-fitting lid. It will store in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 1 month.
- I used Stevia and Coconut oil in my recipe and I can honestly say that it is the tastiest Nutella that I have ever eaten and the aroma is rich, nutty and chocolaty enough to drive any chocoholic crazy. Believe me, it is worth all the hassle. So get cracking and you too can enjoy your homemade Foragers Nutella!
Enjoy your chocolate-nutty fix!