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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Hazelnut Harvest

Regular readers of my facebook page will know that I have been doing battle with squirrels this year. No sooner had I removed all my cherries from the tree in order to keep the birds from having them all than the squirrel arrived in the hazel tree to start pinching the hazelnuts. Fearful that I would lose them all, I started to collect any hazelnuts that fell from the tree. I think the squirrel helped with this, dislodging some in his haste to feast.

However, some of these "nuts" shriveled to nothing on my windowsill so I cracked open some of the fresher ones I'd picked up and found that there was no nut inside. However, as this was still June/July, it seemed likely that this was the hazelnut version of the "June drop", dropping the duff nuts. So, I had to wait patiently for the nuts to develop... although the squirrel was not so patient and continued to raid my tree. I think too, that he was fully aware that some of them were empty and was discarding them, dropping them onto my patio to tease me.

Eventually, towards the end of August I became increasingly fed up with the squirrel. Every time I was sat at the table, I saw him coming to the tree to collect more nuts. He was brazen too and not at all easily put off. Opening the back door was not sufficient to scare him off and on one occasion I went right up to where he was sat in the tree and he leapt over my head and into the cherry tree to escape. I think he scare me on that occasion more than I scared him! It stood to reason to that he must be in the tree on many occasions when I wasn't aware of it. At this rate there would be no hazelnuts left.

I thought about this for a while and tried to think of some way to stop him getting the hazelnuts. As inventive as I am, I couldn't think of a sensible and humane way to put him off. So, instead, I decided to put monkey nuts out in the garden. I figured that he would come along and find the monkey nuts first, eat these and leave. And you know what, it worked too! Over the next couple of days I topped up the monkey nuts two to three times a day in order to keep my hazelnuts safe. However, after a couple of days of this I decided it would just make a whole lot more sense to harvest what was left on the tree and bring them safely inside to finish ripening.

Of course, out of this little collection of nuts, I had no idea how many of them were empty and how many contained nuts. So this weekend I decided it was time ti find out how big the 2014 harvestnut harvest really was. I armed my daughter with a nutcracker and set her on a mission to reveal our hazelnuts. Off she went with the enthusiasm of... well, a child armed with a nutcracker and soon all our nuts were de-shelled. All 50g of them!

There was nothing more for it than to turn them into Hazelnut & Sesame Florentines; a recipe I had devised 5 years ago when we got our first hazelnut harvest (30g on that occasion). A tasty, simple recipe that very nicely makes use of our piffling hazelnut harvest. And you know what... I have no intention of sharing them with the squirrel!

Hazelnut and Sesame Florentines (makes 12-16)

1 1/2 oz (40g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 oz (40g) golden syrup
1/2 oz (15g) plain flour
1 1/2 oz (40g) chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 oz (40g) sesame seeds
1 oz (25g) glace cherries
1 oz (25g) dried mixed fruit

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and line a large baking sheet. Melt together the butter and the syrup in a pan over a gentle heat then remove from the heat and add all the other ingredients. Stir well and leave for 2-3 minutes. Dollop teaspoons of the mixture well spaced out on the baking paper then bake for 5-8 minutes until golden. Cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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