The last time our pinon trees gave forth with a crop of nuts may have been eight years ago. I don’t remember the year. I was wildly excited about harvesting them all myself and roasting, shelling and eating as many as possible. When people from the Hispanic culture in Leadville came around the neighborhood asking permission to harvest from our trees, I said, “No thanks. I want the nuts.” And so I proceeded to get a rake, put down a white sheet under the tree, shake the tree branches with a rake, and watch in amazement as the nuts fell like rain onto the sheet.
Then I followed someone’s advice about roasting them in a black iron skillet. Cracking and picking out the meat was the most difficult part. I did it one nut at a time, while sitting on the couch. I must have eaten a pound of nuts. They did not agree with my digestive system and I ended up having a colonoscopy because my gut hurt so much.
Sooooo, once again our trees are loaded with nuts. No neighboring Hispanics have shown up to ask permission to gather. But if they do, I will give it.
Meanwhile, yesterday I couldn’t resist trying again to roast the nuts. They had fallen on the ground like manna.
I gathered up a small batch.
And toasted them in a dry skillet for about 6 minutes.
Then I cracked them one at a time with a pair of wire cutters and pulled out the meat. It was horribly labor intensive. The meat was translucent and gummy. I couldn’t remember how long one had to cook the things. So I then put the gummy nuts back into the skillet with a little butter and toasted them until they turned orange. By then they were hard like peanuts and YUMMY with a little salt. This took me all of an hour and a half. I wouldn’t recommend it.
But, dear readers, there is a better way.
A recipe from the New Mexico Nut Company recommends roasting them in the oven at 325 degrees on a cookie sheet.
Another source of pinon nut info advises 350 degrees in an oven. And then adds that the best way to shell them is to put the cooled nuts between two terry cloth kitchen towels and roll them with a rolling pin — which presumably cracks the shells, which stick to the terry cloth. I’ve not tried this, but perhaps I will. Although the birds have gathered many pounds of nuts for themselves, there are plenty left.
Speaking of sticking . . . I’ve shucked pinon nuts right out of the sappy cones with my finger nails. The sap gets all over your fingers and will not wash off. Yesterday I used fingernail polish remover to clean up the mess. The many uses of pine sap by Native Americans and ancient ancestors might make an interesting blog topic for the future . . .