Sunday, November 23, 2014

Native nuts with native flavors

I made these in advance of Thanksgiving for our Native Nosh/Nibbles/etc. We've always had some treats indigenous to the Americas for Thanksgiving, including corn (in the form of Corn Nuts) and chocolate-dipped peanuts. This year I was given the assignment, and I've gone a little crazy.

I wanted to make some glazed nuts (all nuts indigenous, of course) using all indigenous flavors. I thought of making one batch of maple glazed nuts and another batch spiced with vanilla, chili (cayenne), and allspice. I was looking for some maple candy, but found none in three stores I visited. When I went to Harmon's, our highest end grocery store, and found nothing remotely maple, I actually teared up a little bit with homesickness for Wegmans.

So I had to make my own. I found the simplest well-reviewed recipe for maple nuts, from Ellie Krieger at the Food Network. All it uses is maple syrup and nuts (and salt), none of that sugar-and-butter-etc mess, so I decided to go for it. I think I made the right choice! It is simple, I didn't mess it up which must mean it is foolproof, and it was very, very fast. I also think it is delicious, and the best part is that it is completely made from ingredients available in pre-Colombian America.

With the success of those nuts, I decided to make my spiced batch with the same recipe. The first few I tried I didn't love. But they grew on me quickly (it helped to let them thoroughly cool). Now I'm quite pleased with them. Quite thoroughly pleased. They too are made completely with ingredients available in pre-Colombian America, albeit spanning distant ends of the continents.

Native nuts with native flavors (maple or maple and spices)

2 c native nuts (I used pecan halves, cashews, and brazil nuts cut in half)
1/3 c maple syrup
1/4 t salt

Preheat a dry skillet over medium high heat (I did wait to get my skillet quite hot). Mix nuts, syrup, and salt in a bowl, and then put in the pan (they will sizzle immediately). Cook, stirring, until syrup is caramelized and nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. (I thought it would take longer than prescribed as I've had that experience with other glazed nut recipes, but it really didn't. Maybe I did 3 minutes and 20 seconds).  Spread out on a parchment-lined sheet to cool and dry thoroughly, then pack in an air-tight container.

To add more native flavors, add 2 t vanilla to the syrup, increase the salt to 3/4-1 t and make a spice mix of:
2 t vanilla sugar (yes, I know this is redundant and it probably isn't necessary, and, if you are picky, it messes up the 100% American scorecard.)
1 t cayenne (this gives them a slow but powerful heat. I considered saying I would reduce the amount of cayenne-- they do burn-- but the initial bite doesn't have a whole lot of cayenne flavor, so I don't know.)
1/2 t allspice

I scattered the spices over the nuts in the last 30 seconds of cooking to give them time to be thoroughly distributed in the still-wet syrup.

1 comment:

Rebekka said...

Well, I just polished off the last of the nuts. The native flavors nuts need some tweaking, but I think they have potential. I thought that this was a good base recipe for spiced nuts, anyhow.

The plain maple ones, though, were a real winner for me. After a few days of storage, they got a little sticky-- never too bad, just enough to get a little stuck together. But remarkably they crisped back up in WJ after the holiday! I think others liked them, too, because all I put out got eaten. I love how simple they are and the maple flavor. I'll probably make this again.