Pine Nuts

by Sanjeev Kapoor

 

You don’t need to pine for these nuts though they are called Pine nuts. They are called chilgoze in Hindi and are small and oblong in shape. Obtained from several varieties of the pine trees, there are two main varieties, and both nuts are ivory in colour. The Mediterranean or Italian (pignolia) stone pine nut is torpedo-shaped and has a light delicate flavour. The Chinese pine nut, on the other hand, has a strong, pungent flavour and is shaped like a squat triangle.
How to obtain the cones
The pine cones that contain the nuts must be collected from the tree or forest floor. The cones are heated to open up their scales and loosen the nuts within. The nuts are often lightly roasted to improve their flavour.
The best time to gather pine nuts islate October after the first frost opens the cones but before the first snow covers up the nuts that have fallen.
How to store
These nuts go rancid very quickly. So, ideally they should be stored in the freezer for up to 9 months or refrigerator for 1 month. Unshelled pine nuts have a long shelf life if kept dry and refrigerated properly. 
Culinary uses
It is believed that pine nuts have been eaten in Europe and Asia since the prehistoric times. They are frequently added to various meats, fishes, salads and vegetable dishes or baked breads. In Italy they are called pinoli and are an essential ingredient of the world famous Italian pesto sauce.
Pignoli cookies, an Italian American specialty confection, are made of almond flour and topped with pine nuts. In Spain, a sweet is made of small marzipan balls covered with pine nuts, painted with egg and lightly cooked.
Pine nut coffee, known as piñón is a speciality found in the southwest United States. In New Mexico, piñón is made by darkly roasting the nuts, which give the beverage a deep, nutty flavour. Lightly roasted and lightly salted pine nuts are consumed as a snack. Pine nuts are widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine, especially in dishes like kibbeh, sambusak, and desserts such as baklava.
A word of caution
Moderation is the key word, especially where pine nuts are concerned since they can cause taste disturbances - a bitter and metallic taste - lasting between a few days to a few weeks after consumption. Though unpleasant, there are no known lasting effects, with the FDA reporting; that there are "no apparent adverse clinical side effects." It is also known as "pine nut syndrome" or as "pine mouth".
Research has found that, nuts from a particular species of pine occurring mostly in China, Pinusarmandii, is the main cause of the problem. They are smaller, duller, and more rounded than typical pine nuts. A study conducted in 2011 found results consistent with this hypothesis and also suggested that the chemicals used in the shelling process might be responsible. 

 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.