A Bit About Roasting Hazelnuts
Roasting hazelnuts isn't exactly rocket science. It's something nearly anyone can do. Hazelnuts can be slow roasted, quick roasted, dry roasted, or roasted in the microwave, and you may want to try one or two methods to see what seems to give the best result. Of course hazelnuts can be eaten raw, right out of the shell, but roasting them seems to impart a special flavor, and once you've tried the roasted nuts you may never want to go back.
Although the hazelnut tree is native to Europe, and one of the names for the hazelnut is the "Spanish nut", it's been grown in the United States and Canada for the past 150 years, mostly in the western states and provinces. Over 98 percent of the hazelnuts grown in the United States for the commercial market are grown in Oregon. More and more private homeowners are planting a hazelnut tree or two in their yard or garden. It can take 4 to 5 years before a tree will begin to produce a decent crop, but once that happens, the owner can usually look forward to an abundant crop every year for at least 40 years, and sometimes much longer.
Hazelnut Nutrition - Although hazelnuts were considered (mostly incorrectly) for centuries to have significant medicinal properties, they are not grown or used today for that purpose. The nutritional value of the hazelnut however is beyond question, and like many nuts, the hazelnut is an excellent addition to the diet. Hazelnuts are, as might be expected, high in fiber and protein, they are a source of monounsaturated fats, and are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Roasting hazelnuts does not appear to significantly affect their nutritional properties.
If you were to purchase a large quantity of hazelnuts, you wouldn't necessarily have to roast the whole batch at once. They will keep for a time in the shell, but when shelled and frozen will last up to 2 years, or can merely be refrigerated, and will last about a year. In either case they need to be kept in airtight bags or containers to avoid picking up freezer or refrigerator odors.
How To Roast Hazelnuts - When roasting hazelnuts one can either roast them coated with oil (after removing the shells of course) or dry roast them, without oil. One of the advantages of roasting the nuts with oil is that salt can more easily be added, if one wishes to have salted nuts, but of one simply wants to enjoy the pure nut, dry roasting is easier and to many, preferable.
To slow roast hazelnuts, simply place them on a baking pan or sheet (with or without a coating of oil) and bake them at 275 degrees for about 25 minutes. The nuts should be stirred occasionally during the roasting process so they will brown evenly and not burn. Once the skin cracks and the nuts have turned a golden brown they are ready.
For quick-roasted hazelnuts the only difference is that the oven temperature is raised to from 350 to 375 degrees. The roasting time will be no more than 10 minutes, but the nuts do have to be stirred frequently and watched carefully so they will not scorch.
A microwave oven may also be used for roasting hazelnuts. Roasting the nuts at full power between 3 and 4 minutes usually does the trick. To remove the skins from the hazelnuts after they have been cooked, the best approach seems to be to wrap them in a terrycloth towel while they are still hot, and let them steam a few minutes. Then, when they are rubbed in the towel, the skins will usually come off, although a few pieces of skin will usually insist on hanging on, which does not interfere with the taste of the hazelnut or its eating pleasure.