At the age of 10-20 years, the pine (Pinus pinea), also known as the Mediterranean or umbrella pine, begins to form seeds. Two of these seeds always sit on a cone scales. To get to the ripe pine nuts, they must first be removed from the pine cones and then freed from their hard shell.
Instructions for opening the pine cones
Pine cones are the fruits of the up to 30 m high pine tree. They can grow up to 16 cm long and 10 cm wide and contain around 120 seeds. They have a greenish structure with red corrugations. In nature, the ripe cones open in spring and the seeds fall to the ground. The cones are harvested in autumn / winter while they are still closed. Pine nuts are available in stores with and without a shell.
Occasionally you can also buy pine cones in stores or markets. To get to the seeds between the scales, they have to be opened. When you have removed the partly hard shell from the actual kernels, you can eat them directly, process them further as required or store them accordingly for later use. The most important factor in opening the pine cones is warmth. The warmer and drier it is, the faster they open. Various methods are available for this:
In a dry and warm place
In order for pine cones to open, they can be stored in a warm and dry room, among other things. However, this method is very tedious and can take several weeks. The long waiting time can, in turn, cause the cores inside the cones to start to mold. This can be seen in a musty smell and grayish discolored kernels.
On the heater
The whole thing works a little faster on the heater or next to the stove, provided they are in operation. Either you put the pine cones directly on the heater or hang them, for example in a large-meshed net, directly above it. The rising flow of warm air causes the pine cones to open. They usually do this with crackling noises and a loud bang. As soon as the pine cones open, take them off the heater to prevent the seeds from falling out. Or you can put paper towels under the radiator to catch them.
In the oven
Probably the most effective way to get the pine cones to open is in the oven at home. The whole thing only takes a few minutes and the risk of mold formation is lowest here.
- First preheat the oven to 60 degrees
- Place the cones on a baking sheet or wire rack lined with baking paper
- Then put the wire rack or tray in the oven
- Check every two to three minutes
- Leave in the oven until the pine cones open
- As a rule, this cannot be ignored
- However, the cracking noise is muffled when the oven door is closed
- The cores in the opened cones are easy to see
Tip: If necessary, you can put the pine cones in the microwave for a few seconds and open them that way.
Removal of the cores
The pine nuts, which are up to 2 cm long and 1 cm wide, are edible and go well with a wide variety of dishes, especially in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. They can also be enjoyed raw or salted. Once the pine cones are open, the kernels can be removed. Some of the kernels are usually relatively loose and can be shaken out. As a rule, however, they are so tight that that is not enough. Then creativity is required and often there is nothing left than to completely dismantle the cones, which can be very tedious. Perhaps that also explains why the cores are so expensive in retail.
Instructions for cracking the pine nuts
Now the kernels only have to be freed from the hard shell. Despite their high fat content of around 50 percent, pine nuts are very healthy, and all of them are healthy, high-quality fats. They also contain other valuable ingredients and even cracked kernels simply taste better than peeled ones on the market. They have a creamy, soft consistency and a fine, resinous and slightly almond-like aroma. The shell of pine nuts is usually very hard, so that cracking requires a certain amount of work and strength. With a few aids, however, you can make your work a little easier.
With the nutcracker
If you want to open pine nuts with the nutcracker, you should be very patient. In contrast to whale or hazelnuts, pine nuts are relatively small, so cracking them can quickly become a test of patience. Nevertheless, the nutcracker is a way to get to the delicious kernels.
Tip: What you should definitely not use to crack are your own teeth. This could quickly backfire due to the hard shell and result in a trip to the dentist.
With the rolling pin
- Rolling pin only makes sense for pine nuts with a not so hard shell
- To do this, put a few seeds in a conventional freezer bag
- Squeeze excess air out of the bag
- Then roll over the cores with as high a pressure as possible
- Until the shells have broken open and the actual kernels can be seen
- Do not put too many pine nuts in the bag at once
- Then put the whole thing in a bowl and sort out the pods
With the hammer
If neither rolling pin nor nutcracker helped and the unruly shells just don’t want to burst, you can try a hammer. Put the pine nuts back in a freezer bag and press out excess air. Now you put the bag on an impact-resistant, hard surface and give it a hard skin. A major disadvantage of this method is that not only the shells but also some cores break, which is usually unavoidable. In addition, the remains of the pods then have to be laboriously sorted out by hand.
In the pan
Brute force does not always have to be used, because there is another way, for example in a completely normal pan. This way of cracking pine nuts is the most effective and the one with the least effort. To do this, put the pan on the stove and the stove on the middle setting.
You can do without oil completely, because the kernels should always be roasted dry. If the pan is hot, add the pine nuts and turn them several times. As soon as they have turned a golden yellow color, they are ready and can be removed from the stove. After they have cooled down well, the pods can usually be removed without any problems.
Tip: Pine nuts are also very easy to crack in the stove. To do this, the oven is preheated to 160 degrees, the pine nuts are roasted golden yellow on a baking sheet without baking paper and then freed from their shell after cooling.
Instructions for optimal storage
After cracking the kernels, it’s all about proper storage. This has a major impact on the taste and quality of pine nuts, because their high fat content means that they tend to go rancid quickly.
- After cracking, store the kernels in a cool and, above all, dry place
- For example in a dry cellar or storage room
- Kitchen unsuitable for this purpose
- Steam in the kitchen can severely clog pine nuts and reduce quality
- Always close open packs of purchased pine nuts tightly
- It is best to store in airtight storage jars
Storage in the refrigerator is only recommended to a limited extent. This is due on the one hand to the moisture and on the other hand to other, sometimes intensely smelling foods such as cheese, fish, sausage, etc., which are not packed odor-proof. They could seriously impair the fine aroma of the pine nuts. When properly stored, peeled pine nuts can be kept or stored for a maximum of 2-3 months.