So, why does it take so long between harvest and eating? Basically, there are several steps of post-harvest processing, and they all take time. First, once the nuts are knocked off the trees, they need to dry in the sun for about 10 days. This allows the hulls and shells to dry out enough that they can be removed easily by the hulling and shelling machinery without damaging the nuts. Once they are dry, I haul them to a processor for hulling/shelling. Of course, once there they have to wait in line. The hullers run 24 hours a day this time of year, but there are a LOT of nuts to process in California--about 1.5 billion pounds this year. After shelling, our nuts went to another processor to be sorted. Sorting takes out all the damaged nuts, half kernals, etc. The perfect nuts are then packaged, and sent to the freezer for about a month to make sure there are no viable insect eggs hitching along. (The alternative to this step in non-organic production is fumigation or pasteurization.) Only after all of this are the nuts ready to be sold. Of course, I've been eating them all along--even right off the trees--so I know they are fantastic!
To celebrate the release of our almonds, here's a new recipe for you--our first recipe on this blog that doesn't include rice! This recipe comes from Marianne Brenner, a local chef and columnist in Chico.
Hot-Sweet Black and White Sesame Almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups raw whole almonds
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the spices, pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and mix well.
Place the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and cook over medium heat until melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cook, stirring, until they are coated with the sugar syrup.
Add a small amount of the sesame seed mixture to the almonds, stirring all the while. Add the remaining mixture, a little at a time, and toss until all the mixture has been used.
Transfer nuts to the prepared sheet and arrange in a single layer; separate the almonds with a fork or your hands and set aside to cool before serving.