There are two really good reasons to make candied, spiced nuts this year. First their ratio of effort to ohhhs and ahhhs is really low. One pot, ingredients in at once, and short-ish cooking time–it’s a recipe even Rachel Ray couldn’t screw up. Also, they’re much less messy than whole walnuts. You might think that a heaped bowl makes an excellent decorative piece but then some jerk (like me) will get it into his head that it’s a good idea to start cracking nuts by hand without really considering all the shell shrapnel.
Definitely candy your nuts instead.
The idea of adding pork fat (you won’t really taste it but it does add a meaty richness) came from Graham Pratt chef at the Gabardine via this piece on the Grid’s website. The technique is generally adapted from the Jacques Pépin recipe for the nuts in the composed salad recipe from Essential Pepin.
Rendered pork fat is available from many butchers and ethnic markets around Toronto. I found a large container for five bucks at Segovia Meat Market in Kensington (218 Augusta Ave.).
As I typed that sentence about not tasting the pork fat the thought occurred to me that in some circles that might be a bad thing. If you happen to run with that crowd who likes to taste their future “coronary events” just sub an equal amount of rendered bacon fat.
This post was created as part of the California Walnut Commission’s blogger challenge and to satisfy full disclosure I should say that they sent me a lovely blogger holiday kit.
Porky Christmas Nuts
California walnuts candied with butter, pork fat, maple syrup, and spices make a delicious holiday snack or ingredient in a salad.
Cooking time: 10 minutes Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: a little over one cup of candied nuts.
- 100 g (about a cup) California walnut halves or pieces
- 8 g (about 1 TB) rendered pork fat, lard, or bacon fat
- 8 g (about 1 TB) butter
- 12 g (1 TB) maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- medium pinch fine salt
- In a medium saucepan cover walnut pieces with water and bring to a simmer. Drain water and add remaining ingredients except salt.
- Set over medium-high heat and cook until the saucepan’s contents are fragrant and the liquid ingredients are a medium-dark brown, about five to seven minutes. Stir frequently.
- Drop walnuts onto a plate and shake plate to distribute into a single, even layer. Season immediately with salt. Let cool and serve or store in an air-tight container.