Filberts are kind of a big deal in my neck of the woods. Nearly all of US hazelnut production, and about 5% of total world production, happens less than a hundred and fifty miles from my house. When the kids were younger the local Filbert Festival was a can’t miss community event, and during hazelnut season you’ll find them on everything from salads to milkshakes to seafood in local restaurants. A prominent local meat producer feeds his pigs hazelnuts just before slaughter, lending a nutty, creamy flavor to the fattier cuts. You’ve never lived until you’ve had filbert-finished pork belly.
Which is why Minted Filberts, from the 1952 corporate cookbook , caught my eye. It’s a simple candied hazelnut recipe with an unusual peppermint pairing. I thought about adding a little bit of green food coloring, but I’m glad I didn’t. The minty sugar coating turns white and opaque and looks like little puffs of snow.
I was frankly underwhelmed at first taste, but over the course of the next thirty minutes I ended up eating half the batch. There’s no obvious “wow!” factor – the mint flavor is subtle and they’re not particularly sweet, but both the mint and the sugar really let the hazelnuts speak for themselves. They’re blanched which gives them a softer texture than a roasted nut, and also a creaminess which the little bit of sugar helps to accentuate. They’re not a dessert on their own but maybe something you put in a candy bowl for fancy company. They also make a great topping for chocolate or chocolate mint ice cream.
- Blanch hazelnuts for 2-3 minutes in boiling water. Rinse with cold water and remove hulls. If not using right away dry thoroughly and refrigerate.
- Mix sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes until mixture starts to thicken and is slightly milky and opaque.
- Remove from heat, stir in nuts and mint extract and stir to coat. If needed, return to heat and simmer until mixture reaches desired thickness.
- Pour nuts onto buttered baking sheet and separate nuts to avoid sticking together. Allow to cool until sugar coating resembles patches of frost or snow.