PINONES, NEW MEXICO's CONTRIBUTION TO GOURMANDS
1. Capturing (gathering) the Pinons
Pinon gathering in the fall in New Mexico is a time when people can reconnect with nature…and their families. Even in our family of two, we become more connected when doing a project together.
When trying anything new, doing a little research or watching an expert and then doing it yourself helps make the job easier.
After a fall camping trip in the Sangre de Cristo mountains we came home with a brown paper lunch bag full of new pinon nuts we had gathered from the pinon trees, crouched on the side of a hill facing the afternoon sun. Although this is an experience in itself and some would feel the job is completed already and begin to enjoy the fruit of their labor by cracking and eating the nuts at this point… the job of shelling is the next big task before the roasting can be done.
2. Taming (cracking) the Pinons
At home after looking at several websites about pinons from New Mexico and finding loads of recipes for the roasting and adding pinon to many main dishes or desserts, nothing about the actual cracking and shelling seemed to show up ( I guess it is a subject thought to be either discouraging for the first time or too simple to bother explaining) but I thought I would try to give you a simple idea of how my husband and I found a way of handling the elusive pinon which worked for us.
As you may know pinons are found in a variety of sizes and shapes and the use of a rolling pin which we tried at first was not successful. Cracking pinon nuts is not easy. The tack hammer seemed a slow way about going after even the small amount of nuts we had (about 4 cups of unshelled nuts). But after several iterations of banging each nut one at a time on the granite countertop with shells flying all over the kitchen some useful tips were discovered.
Use a 1/2 gallon plastic ziplock bag for a handful of nuts from the paper sack and kind of swish the bag on a hard surface until the nuts are separated about an inch apart inside the plastic bag. Then begin to hit each nut with a certain force that doesn't mash the nut (which becomes familiar after a few tries) until you hear a "pop" sound when the nut cracks. Sometimes it doesn't look like it is cracked but later it will be easy to tell by holding the nut in your hand between the thumb and first finger and rolling it and squeezing…like some people do when cracking the nut with their teeth, and then roll the nut with their tongue to reposition the nut). Then use both hands to pull the shell away from the nut. You can remove the skins by blowing gently on the nuts or taking them outside and let the wind separate the nuts from the skins.
After about 2 hours of this, we had successfully cracked 1 cup of pinons achieving a whopping 1/4 cup of beautiful creamy-colored nuts ready for roasting! Now some might say "What a waste of time". I would say "Find the time to take your time"…or something like that. Our first attempt at this experience with the tradition of pinon gathering which has a long history in New Mexico by indian and hispanic cultures who have for hundreds…maybe thousands of years used the metate stone, their teeth, hammers or maybe some methods which are not well known nor passed on to newer cultures who now live in this area.
3. Roasting the Pinons
If you or anyone you know might have something to add to or correct about the gathering of pinon nuts and especially the second step of separating the nut from the shell, please email and we can add it to continue this adventure with the New Mexican pinons.
4. GROWING YOUR OWN
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