Those tiny, irresistible gourmet treats that are known as pine nuts | NevadaAppeal.com

Those tiny, irresistible gourmet treats that are known as pine nuts

Don Quilici

This is a seasonal repeat of a previous story on how to enjoy some very special, tiny, irresistible, gourmet treats.

Those treats are known as pine nuts.

What in the heck is a pine nut?

Well, for those of you who are new to the area and are unfamiliar with pine nuts, they are the seeds of the pinyon pine tree. That tree is the official tree of the State of Nevada. It is a fairly small, rather unattractive, bushy-looking tree and is one of the main physical features of our Great Basin area.

It also produces one of Mother Nature’s tastiest treats – pine nuts.

Most interesting, the seed crop of the pinyon tree is completely unpredictable and unreliable. The nuts only occur about once every three years, with the density varying dramatically from one geographic area to another.

So, the area that produced a great crop of pine nuts last year could be absolutely barren this year or vice versa.

With that as a brief background on the pine nut, here is what to do to enjoy that gourmet treat:

At your convenience, wander down to your favorite super market and buy several pounds of the raw pine nuts.

I discovered a long time ago that is is far easier for me to buy the nuts at a super market rather than try to pick them myself and here’s why:

If you’ve never picked pine nuts, then you have never discovered the hard way (like I did!) that the pinyon tree is notorious for its pitch. Each tree is loaded with sticky pine pitch. If I get anywhere close to one of those trees, I am instantly covered with that pitch. It gets on my hands, my face, my shirt, my pants, my steering wheel, etc.

I used to remove the pitch with gasoline and by the time I was done, I smelled like a pump at a gas station.

Then at a later date, I discovered that mayonnaise worked just as well in removing the pitch. Mayonnaise! No matter what you use, if you pick your own pine nuts, be sure to have something with you to remove the pitch. If you don’t, you’ll be a mess.

With that said, just follow these very easy “Don Q” instructions on selecting good pine nuts and then cooking them:

– Selecting good pine nuts (no matter whether you pick them or buy them):

Note: This step is optional but it ensures the very best edible nuts.

Fill an empty, two-pound coffee can about half-full of cold water.

Then, pour in a quantity of the nuts to determine if any of them float. Any that float are hollow or have begun to get hard. It’s your choice as to whether or not you want to cook them. I throw them away. That way, all I have left is the best eating ones.

Repeat this process until you have floated all of the nuts.

– Boiling the pine nuts:

Replace the water in the coffee can with clean, cold water.

Then, place enough pine nuts in the can until the water level is several inches from the top.

You are now ready to boil them on your stove.

Before you do, season the water with lots of table salt. If in doubt, use more. Much more!

Bring the water and nuts to a boil.

Reduce the heat and cook for about 30 minutes at a medium-high heat.

Special Note: Do not use any of your regular cooking pots or you will be sorry. The nuts produce pitch while cooking and that pitch is almost impossible to remove from your pots. I found that out the hard way. That’s why you use the coffee can. When you’re done cooking the nuts, just throw away the can. Quick and easy with no fuss!

– Baking the pine nuts:

Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil (to protect the sheet from any remaining pitch). Remove the pipping-hot pine nuts from the water. Spread them in a layer over the sheet.

Season with lots of salt. If in doubt, use even more salt.

Place the cookie sheet in a pre-heated oven. Then bake the nuts at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

– Warning:

You are now ready to eat an unforgettable treat. However, be advised that you can not eat just one, pipping hot, freshly-cooked pine nut and then stop. It is absolutely impossible.

Eating pine nuts is comparable to eating potato chips, jelly beans, cashews, etc. You will feel compelled to keep eating more and more, until they’re all gone. Don’t say that you weren’t pre-warned.

– Finally:

Sharing freshly-cooked pine nuts and a glass of wine with that special person in front of a cozy, crackling fireplace on a cold, wintry night is a great combination. Try it. You’ll like it.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a special person in your life, you can still enjoy the pine nuts and wine in front of a cozy fire all by yourself. Try it.

– Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon he can’t tell you two main uses for the pinyon tree.

If he says, “You can use a pinyon for a Christmas tree or cut a whole bunch of them into firewood,” he could be a longtime Nevadan and you lose the bet.