Nuts are fantastic snacks because they keep fresh for a pretty long time if you know how to harvest and prep them correctly. But with just a little bit of extra effort, you can preserve them and extend the shelf life of your nuts dramatically.
If you’re looking for practical ways to keep your nuts longer and want to know the safe processes for preserving them, then keep reading this article.
Harvesting and Preparation
Nuts are a household essential. All kinds of species like black walnuts, pecans, and almonds are great sources of nutrition and they store a good, long time if you know how to do it right.
Some of the most popular nuts are:
- Almonds (Prunus amigdalis)
- Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana)
- Walnuts (Juglans regia)
- Pistachios (Pistachia vera)
- Chestnuts (Castanea sativa)
Depending on the species, there are different ways to harvest and handle these nuts. Let’s start with almonds.
Almonds are one of the most common types of nuts in stores. They’re tasty and the perfect snack for doing garden work. Almonds have been cultivated and consumed for centuries.
You’ll know it’s time to harvest almonds when the drupes have split and fallen. Spread a tarp or other material under the tree so you can collect the nuts.
Put the almonds in a freezer for at least 48 hours as this kills any insects or other pests living on the nuts.
Hazelnuts and Walnuts
You’ll be able to tell if hazelnuts are ripe when they turn brown and are easy to remove from the tree. Walnuts will also turn brown when they’re ready to harvest.
Both hazelnuts and walnuts are prepared similarly; they both need to be dried before eating or storing. After harvest, these nuts should be dried for 24 hours. You can keep the nuts in the shell at this point or remove them.
You can remove the nuts from the shell before drying to save down the road. Keep the nuts in an air-tight container until you’re ready to dry them.
The ideal drying temperature is 95-105°F to preserve the flavor. Typically, hazelnuts take a little less time than walnuts to dry. Dry walnuts for 3-4 days and hazelnuts for 2-3 days.
Pistachios are ripe when you can squeeze the outer coating, called the epicarp, and it pulls away from the nut inside. Place a tarp underneath and shake the branches. The ripe nuts will fall to the ground.
To start, immediately remove the epicarps. Next, freeze pistachios in the freezer for 48 hours to ensure they are safe for eating before canning.
Dry pistachios at a temperature of 140-160°F for around 10-14 hours. You can do this in your oven on a baking sheet.
Chestnuts are delicious when dried and cooked. They’re a nice high-starch food and a low-fat snack.
When you notice that chestnuts have become prominent and shiny and fall from the tree, they’re ripe. Collect them from the ground.
If you want to store chestnuts for the short term, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer (for up to 3 months). If you want to keep chestnuts longer, dry them as you would other nuts.
You can also cure chestnuts, which can make them sweeter. Do this by leaving the chestnuts at room temperature, encouraging them to convert the starch to sugar, before storing.
There are lots of great ways to preserve your nuts so they last longer.
1. In Jars
Clean and sterilize the jars before filling them. This is essential if you’re re-using jars, as you might have to remove leftover food particles or bacteria from the last time you used them.
You can sterilize the jars by boiling them, including the lids, for at least 10 minutes. This is the right amount of time to remove toxins and thoroughly clean the jar. Allow them to air dry on a clean towel.
The next step is filling your jars with nuts. Fill them to the top to eliminate as much air as possible and seal them up with the lid. Store them this way for a few months in a cool, dark area or in the fridge.
2. Make Nut Butter
One way to take advantage of your nut harvest is to create a nut butter. You only need a few ingredients.
For example, to make almond butter, you need 4 cups of almonds and 3-4 tablespoons of flavored oil like avocado oil.
Roast the nuts in the oven at 350°F until they’re warm and golden, about 10 minutes. Let the almonds cool and then transfer them into a food processor. Blend the oil and nuts together.
It takes a while for the nuts to become a creamy paste, so be patient and keep at it. As soon as the ingredients have turned to a paste, you can add stuff like salt, honey, cinnamon, maple syrup, or chocolate for flavor.
After the paste is ready, place the butter in a clean jar and seal it. Store the butter in the refrigerator and consume it within 2 weeks.
Nut butter is also an excellent gift for friends and family members. You can wrap them with ribbon or other decorations as a special gift!
3. Vacuum Sealing
There’s another option for preserving nuts, and that’s in vacuum-sealed bags. This option is cost-effective and efficient if want to store large quantities of nuts at home. Vacuum sealing removes the air from inside the container, which enables the nuts to stay fresh longer.
Use a vacuum sealer to remove the air and heat seal the end. You can add oxygen absorbers into the bags or go without them. Oxygen absorbers can also be used in zip-top bags to recreate the effect of vacuum sealing with a machine.
Store the bags in the refrigerator or freezer to extend their storage life even further.
Bag your nuts in freezer bags and press out the air. Seal them shut and toss them in the freezer for up to a year.
Why Can’t You Can Nuts?
Years ago, people used to can nuts in pressure canners and steam baths. With the exception of green peanuts, it’s no longer recommended that you use canning to preserve your nuts. There’s just too great of a risk that pathogens will survive the process and make you and your family sick.