Pinon nuts are tiny seeds found in cones of pinon trees. Pinon trees are a variety of pine trees that often grow in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.
Shelling pinon nuts is relatively easy. All you need is a plastic food storage bag and a rolling pin. Place the nuts in the plastic bag and use a rolling pin to roll over the nuts gently. The shells will come off when you repeat the process a few times.
This article gives you the step-by-step process of shelling pinon nuts. Additionally, we will discuss their flavor, uses, storage, shelf life, and signs of spoilage.
Pinon Nuts Flavor
Pinon nuts have a distinct nutty and buttery flavor. They also have a creamy texture similar to macadamia nuts and cashew nuts.
Their nutty flavor increases when you toast them.
Are Pinon Nuts The Same as Pine Nuts?
Although people mistake pinon nuts for pine nuts, they are not the same.
All pine trees produce edible seeds (pine nuts), but pinon nuts specifically grow on pinon trees. Additionally, pinon nuts have a superior flavor than pine nuts and are much bigger size-wise.
How Often Do Farmers Harvest Pinon Nuts?
Pinon trees take relatively long to mature and produce seeds. Depending on the rainfall, farmers only harvest the nuts once every four to seven years. Usually, the harvest period is in mid-summer.
During harvesting, farmers have to wear hats to prevent the sticky pitch from sticking onto their hair and gloves to protect their hands.
There are two ways of harvesting. The first one requires farmers to use a ladder to pick the pine cones, while the second involves spreading a tarp under the tree and shaking the branches so that the cones fall on the tarp.
The second method requires a lot of care because if you damage the tree, its chances of producing nuts again reduce significantly.
How To Shell Pinon Nuts
Usually, pinon nuts have an outer shell that you must remove before eating the nuts.
Shelling them can be challenging, especially if you have never done it before. Follow these simple steps to shell pinon nuts with ease.
- Transfer the nuts to a plastic food storage bag, squeeze out all the air, and close it securely.
- Lay the bag on a hard, flat surface. Your kitchen counter would be ideal.
- Place a rolling pin at the bottom of the plastic bag, and start rolling it upwards to crack the shells.
- Repeat the above step until all the shells burst open.
- Open the bag and take a few nuts at a time. Use your index finger and thumb to remove any remaining shells.
- Discard the shells and enjoy your nuts. Eat them immediately after you finish shelling them to enjoy their full flavor.
What to avoid when shelling pinon nuts
It would be best not to shell pinon nuts if you are not ready to eat them immediately because the oils in them go rancid rather quickly when you expose them to air.
Only shell the nuts when you are ready to eat them. Otherwise, you risk them going rancid and having an unpleasant flavor.
Another thing you shouldn’t do is hit the pinon nuts with a rolling pin. Doing so may crush the nuts into tiny pieces, and you wouldn’t enjoy them as much.
Pinon nuts have several uses. You can use them in just about any recipe that calls for nuts.
Add them to salads, baked goods, granola, smoothie bowls, and pasta dishes. You can also add pinon nuts to sauces, dips, and soups to enhance their texture.
Note that you will need to cook pinon nuts before adding them to any dishes mentioned above.
How To Cook Pinon Nuts
There are two ways you can cook pinon nuts; in the oven and on the stove.
Follow these steps to roast pinon nuts in the oven.
- Cover your baking pan with foil and evenly spread the nuts on it.
- Mix three tablespoons of water with some salt and sprinkle on the nuts.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook the nuts in the oven for approximately ten minutes or until they start popping.
- Mix the nuts up as they pop. This way, they will cook evenly.
- Remove from the oven once they reach your desired flavor.
- Let the nuts cool for a few minutes. Enjoy!
To cook pinon nuts on the stovetop, place a pan on the stove, set the heat on high, then pour in the nuts. Stir the nits until they start popping, and then add ⅛ cup of water and a bit of salt.
Stir the nuts until they become dry and start popping again. When this happens, remove the pan from heat.
Don’t leave them on the heat for too long because they will burn if you do. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes and enjoy!
How to store pinon nuts
Like any other nuts, you should store pinon nuts properly to retain their freshness.
Since these nuts are sold fresh and have a moisture content, they need to ‘breathe.’ Store them in a cool and dry place that is adequately ventilated.
Can you freeze them?
You can freeze pinon nuts to extend their shelf life if you don’t plan to eat them right away. Frozen pinon nuts will last for several months.
Follow these simple instructions to freeze pinon nuts so that they retain their quality and freshness for long.
- Portion the nuts into small servings. You should be able to finish each serving in one sitting. This way, you won’t have to freeze and refreeze each time you want to eat some.
- Place the nuts in Ziploc bags or sealable freezer-safe containers.
- Remove any air from the bags and seal. Alternatively, you can vacuum-pack them for better results.
- Label the bags with the current date to track how long you have stored them in the freezer.
- Place the bags or containers in your freezer.
To defrost pinon nuts, place them in your fridge for a few hours or overnight. Once you defrost, eat them within four days.
Why Are Pinon Nuts So Expensive?
You may have noticed that pinon nuts are pretty pricey compared to other nut varieties.
There are four main reasons why pinion nuts are so expensive; they take a long time to mature, are challenging to harvest, are imported, and the demand is higher than the supply.
Take long to mature
Most pinon trees are slow-growing. They take over ten years to fully mature, and they only produce nuts once every four to seven years.
The long growing period makes them more expensive than other nuts like almonds, which grow in approximately two years.
Difficult to harvest
Harvesting pinon nuts requires a lot of labor and skill—those harvesting need professional training to climb up the pine trees using ladders to harvest the nut.
Consequently, the prices of pinon nuts shoot up.
Most pinon nuts in the United States are imported. Therefore, they are pricey because distributors need to cover the shipping costs.
Demand is higher than the supply
As discussed above, pinon nuts are scarce. The demand for pinon nuts in the United States is much higher than the supply. Therefore, it is only natural that they are more expensive than other nuts.
Pinon nuts shelf life
Like most nuts, pinon nuts contain oils that become rancid over time. When unshelled, the nuts will last between six months and twelve months.
The shelf life of pinon nuts significantly reduces when they are unshelled. They will only last for up to one month after you open the packet you bought them in.
If you freeze them, they will retain their quality for three months.
Signs that pinon nuts have gone bad
Here are the two signs that our pinon nuts have gone bad.
- Unpleasant smell.
Pinon nuts should have a pleasant nutty aroma. If you smell them and notice the scent is off, the chances are that the oils in them have gone rancid. Discard the nuts immediately
- Off taste.
If your pinon nuts don’t have an unpleasant smell but taste bitter, they have gone bad. The bitter taste is due to rancid oil. Fresh pinon nuts always taste amazing.
Pinon nuts are unique nuts that enhance the texture and flavor of dishes you add them to. They are also delicious on their own.
I hope this article answered your question on how to shell pinon nuts.