In a little more than the time it takes to listen to Duke Ellington’s “Ring Dem Bells,” you can “soak your nuts” and dry them. Well, the drying will take some time, but you don’t have to hang around and watch.
Now, I can see why you might want to listen to the Duke…or to Lionel Hampton’s version of “Ring Dem Bells,” but why soak nuts? Why not just eat them raw?
When people ask me this, I reply with a couple of things:
One is, the nuts taste better. There is nothing in this world like a crispy pecan or walnut.
Two, I suggest they think about what a nut is and what a nut does. A nut—a seed, essentially—is a little package of genetic material protected by natural preservatives. Until the nut or seed finds the proper conditions—good soil, right moisture, enough light—it will wait, ensconced in enzyme inhibitors.
So, when we eat a raw nut or seed, our body has to wend its way through these enzyme inhibitors to get at the nutrients in the nut or seed. I don’t know whether anyone’s studied this, but it seems possible that once the body has expended energy to get at what in the seed, it will have expended more energy than calories and other good stuff taken in from the nut itself. In other words, eating raw nuts can impede your digestion—and cause you to lose energy in the process.
Soaking nuts and seeds in salt water helps to break through the enzyme inhibitors and makes more of what’s there more easily available for us to digest.
Store raw nuts in the freezer. (If you can get them in the shell and store them that way, that helps, though it is more work to shell them.) This helps to maintain their shelf life. Even so, the fat in nuts goes rancid fairly quickly. Try to use them within three months.
Soak raw nuts in salt water. A minimum of seven hours for something like pecans. Overnight also works well. (Other nuts or seeds may have different soak-time requirements.)
Dry the nuts in a food dehydrator or oven that has a low setting—no more than 150-degrees Fahrenheit. This is where it helps to have a dehydrator. Our oven, for example, doesn’t go below 170.
Store crispy nuts in a jar in the fridge and take out as needed.
Once you get down with soaking your nuts, your probably will not want to eat them raw again.
You can also flavor the nuts with herbs such as rosemary, a little cayenne, or curry in between soaking and drying. I dredged pecans in curry with extra turmeric recently and they taste quite good, though could use some salt!
One thing I use crispy pecans for is a celery dip, usually at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but sometimes for special gatherings. Blend softened cream cheese with mayo (I make my own with extra virgin olive oil or use safflower mayo) and then blend in ground pecans. Once this is well mixed, you can stuff celery, though sometimes I find it irresistible just to eat a spoon of this by itself!