The Weston A. Price Way

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Easy Art of Soaking Nuts

As explained in Pleasing Porridge Hot and Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, phytic acid is the bad boy we want to steer clear of when it comes to grains. Just as with cereal grains, nuts need to pass through germination, or at least, mock germination, in order for phytic acid to become neutralized. The procedure also releases 'good girl' phytase, (the enzyme within the grain/nut that has the exact composition to digest that particular grain/nut), as well as the vitamins and other nutrients stored within.

We had some wonderful rolled oat porridge this morning and I must say that when I awaken knowing it is waiting, warm and luscious in our kitchen, my mouth begins to water. Part of the reason for my anticipation is the nuts used as a garnish. The nuts I use a lot right now are red walnuts because these were the most available at the best price at the time we bought them. They were processed in the same way I am going to tell you about here.

First, try to buy nuts raw. Not too hard, unless they're almonds. Some bags of almonds will say they are raw even when they really aren't. Apparently, steaming at high temperatures passes as 'raw'. If you haven't noticed already, there seems to be a pattern regarding processes that destroy the nutrients in food intended by God to be available to man. One of those processes is that of using high heat to 'clean' foods. In most cases, the heat kills the good parts of the foods along with bad cling-a-longs. And usually, the bad cling-a-longs are there because greedy man has perfected the dubious 'art' of raising or growing too much in too little space too fast on the skimpiest amount of nourishment possible for the sake of profit.

Now that I have that off my chest...let's move along. If not using immediately, my first act is to store the nuts in the freezer with the intent to take care of their processing asap. By now, I'm sure you know that processing the traditional way has absolutely nothing to do with processing the industrial way. Although the preparation of nuts is time consuming, it takes very little hands-on effort. The time is mostly consumed in waiting and the waiting doesn't have to be done while eyeballing the nuts, either.

Start with 4 Cups of nuts. Put them in a bowl. Cover them with filtered water. Add a Tablespoon of sea salt and stir. Cover the bowl with a cloth and find a warm, safe place for them to sit from 8-12 hours. After that, drain the water off the nuts by pouring the bowl over a colander that's over the sink. (I like to let them sit there over the sink for a while, and even blot them with a clean towel before the next step.)

Next, put the nuts on a large baking sheet and spread them as thinly as possible. Set the oven at the lowest temperature possible. It is recommended that the setting not be above 150 degrees, but for me, that's a problem since my oven's lowest temp is 170. So I split the difference by keeping the oven door open a tad. Be prepared for the time this takes as it will most likely take the entire day. You want the nuts to be crispy or at least, dry, when you bite into them. Don't even bother testing them before 8 hours, expect at least 12 and be prepared to go as long as 24...And in a dehydrator, as much as 30. But during that time, all you really need to do is give them a stir every now and then. One indication of dryness is in the weight of the nuts. The more they dry, the less moisture content and therefore, the less weight. You will notice that as time passes, the nuts will move more easily and lightly over the tray.

Understand also that frequently keeping your oven on a low setting can cause the heating elements to wear out. Even though they are replaceable, I recommend going the next step and finding a dehydrator to use instead. It not only decreases 'wear and tear' on the oven, it frees it up for other things. Otherwise, you may find yourself doing as I do, (until I get my dehydrator, that is), and pulling the nuts out while cooking something else, then waiting for the oven to cool before replacing them, only to wait some more. If you have a long day home, it's not nearly as difficult as it may sound here, yet, the dehydrator would be the better way to go.

Whichever method you use, when the nuts are thoroughly dry, you'll know. Peanuts become quite crispy, while walnuts and other 'creviced' nut meats may not become quite as crisp, but you will be able to tell that they are dry and drying is the goal.

Here are a few tips on purchasing a dehydrator. I learned these things from an expert I met in Bass Pro Shops while perusing their selection. I noticed his ear leaning our way as my hubby and I discussed which one to buy. Finally, I smiled sweetly and asked him what I knew he was dying to be asked, "Do you know anything about dehydrators?" And you know, as a matter of fact, he did. As it turns out, he is a frequent jerky maker. He uses deer meat. (Don't knock it, I hear it's delicious!) Anyway, he explained that you do not want one with the motor on the bottom because juices, spices, etc. will land in the motor which can't be cleaned. Subsequently, the frequent user will also become a frequent buyer. That was very helpful information for us.

The next thing you want to be sure of is a temperature control. Nuts ideally should be dried at 118 degrees and according to Nourishing Traditions, never over 150 degrees. Some people I trust like to start their dehydrator at the higher temperature and move it down to the ideal temperature after an hour or so in order to speed up dehydrator drying time. (I understand it can take as much as 30 hours to dry nuts when not using the high heat in the beginning.) They say this won't hurt the nuts because of their initial wetness. But you would need to remember to turn it down. If you want hands-off convenience, just set it at 118 and let it go until they're done. Many dehydrators have only an on/off switch, but several now have temperature control knobs. Go for that type.

Bass Pro was out of this type of dehydrator when we were there, but our new friend told us not to despair, they could be had for half the price at a nearby Wal-Mart. In that area, our friend was not an expert. Wally World did have them for half the price of the one we wanted, but it was the Oster that had the motor on the bottom and no temperature control. So, it may be that we have to resort to online shopping...again. I hate online shopping because I'm paranoid about identity theft, I like to look at things in my hand and I abhor paying for shipping...but lately, we've made some really good purchases via the online route.

If you've been keeping up with my posts, you may have noticed by now that there is a particular habit you may need to develop for which the world of processed foods has not prepared you: Planning and Preparation.

Cooking traditionally is not terribly complicated, but it does require some semblance of planning. For me, this has been a bit difficult, but I'm learning and I am truly enjoying the learning as I go. I'm thinking you will, too.

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