Exploring Hazelnuts: Nutella and So Much More

Updated on July 27, 2018
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

Where Did It Begin?

I have always associated the hazelnut tree with the Pacific Northwest because the state of Oregon is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the United States. My family and I live a bit to the north; we own 2 acres in the midst of a hundred-year-old forest in Washington State. Douglas Fir and Redwood Cedar populate our corner of the world, but in the fringes of the forest, where sunshine and shade intermingle, there are hazelnut trees.

How many? I've not counted them, but I know there are more than a dozen. These are not new trees. They are old and majestic; their ancient, weary limbs groan toward the ground. Yet we reap not one hazelnut.

When the nuts are still green on the tree, squirrels and jaybirds battle within the branches for the moist morsels. I've even witnessed jays mimicking the voice of a hawk (a carnivorous threat) to dissuade squirrels from foraging.

Yes, hazelnuts are abundant here, but they did not begin here.

I went out to the hazelwood,

Because a fire was in my head.

— W. B. Yeats

Magic Of The Hazel

It is said that 9,000 years ago nomadic peoples gathered the nuts of hazel trees for sustenance, storing them in pouches and pockets. As they traveled, discarded or fallen fruits sprouted and so with the nomads spread the hazel forests. The hazel, along with the apple and hawthorn, is often spoken of in that magical space between the Otherworld and Earth.

Celtic folklore speaks of a Well of Wisdom. The branches of nine magic hazels hung over the pool and dropped their dusk-hued nuts into the water. They were eaten by a salmon, and the salmon, in turn, was caught by Fionn mac Cumhaill. Young Fionn cooked the fish for his druid master but saved a morsel of it for himself. Upon eating the salmon, Fionn gained the power of prophecy. He went on to become one of the most heroic figures in Celtic mythology, leading a band of warriors known as the Fianna. Fionn carried with him a shield made of hazel wood, and he was invincible in battle.

Glaine ár gcroí (Purity of our hearts)

Neart ár ngéag (Strength of our limbs)

Beart de réir ár mbriathar (Action to match our speech)

— Mottoes of the Fianna

The hazel’s ability to impart intelligence extends to other cultures in the ancient world as well. In Norse mythology the hazel was called The Tree of Wisdom, and the Roman god Mercury feasted on hazel nuts and was considered the personification of wisdom. Hazel shafts have always been the preferred wood for divining rods to locate underground springs of water, buried treasure, ores and minerals.

Hazels are widely distributed throughout much of Europe, from Great Britain and Scandinavia to the Ural Mountains in Russia, as far south as Spain, Italy and Greece and in Iran and the Caucasus region.

And Then A Different Kind of Magic

In a picturesque land framed by the Dolomite mountains, tucked securely in the northwest corner of Italy, beneath the bosom of Switzerland is the Piemonte Region. Medieval towers and cobblestone streets imbue the area with a Disneyesque ambiance.

Torino (Turin) is the administrative area of Piemonte, home to some of Italy’s most prestigious universities and an infamous automotive industry; Torino is ranked third in Italy (after Milan and Rome) for economic strength with a GDP of $58 million.

But thirty-eight miles away, overshadowed by all of this glitz and glamour, is the quaint town of Alba. In autumn her terraced vineyards are a blaze of russet and gold. The landscape boasts an abundance of vegetation—in addition to the wine-making grapes are wheat, rice, olive groves, and countless hazelnut trees.

Alba was the home of a confectioner named Pietro Ferrero. His grandson, Giovanni, shared his story with BBC News:

Pietro was a humble man, living in an enchanted region famed for its abundant hazelnuts. In post World War II Italy times were hard, and chocolate delights were not within reach of the common people. But Pietro had a vision—add sweet (easily accessible) hazelnuts to a small amount of (expensive) cocoa to create a luxurious chocolate confection that would be affordable for everyone.

This hazelnut cocoa concoction would come to be known as Nutella.

My grandfather lived to find this formula. He was completely obsessed by it. He woke up my grandmother at midnight--she was sleeping--and he made her taste it with spoons, asking 'How was it?' and 'What do you think?'

— Giovanni Ferrero

On May 14th, 1946 the Ferrero Company was officially founded. Today Nutella is produced in 11 factories worldwide and is the fourth most important international group in the chocolate confectionery market.The company is the number one user of hazelnuts in the world, buying up 25 percent of the entire world production.

Nutella Trivia

  • One jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds throughout the world.
  • February 5 is World Nutella Day.
  • You could circle the world 1.8 times with the amount of Nutella produced in one year.
  • The amount of Nutella® produced in one year weighs the same as the Empire State Building.
  • On May 31, 2017, the Ferrero Company opened its first restaurant, the Nutella Cafe! in Chicago.
  • On May 14, 2014, Italy issued a 50th anniversary Nutella commemorative postage stamp.
  • The actual recipe for Nutella is a closely-guarded secret (like the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices).
  • McDonald's in Italy recently unveiled a "Nutella Burger." (There is no information on how well is has sold).

Top Five Producers Of Hazelnuts

Country
Annual Production (metric/tonnes)
% of World Total
Turkey
549,000 m/t
59.9 %
Italy
112,643 m/t
12.2%
United States
40,500 m/g
4.4%
Georgia
39,700 m/t
4.3%
Azerbaijan
31,202 m/t
3.4%
Data from October 2016

Recommended serving size = 10 nuts

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 10
Calories 87
Calories from Fat72
% Daily Value *
Fat 8 g12%
Saturated fat 1 g5%
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 2 g1%
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 1 g4%
Protein 2 g4%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

How to Roast and Skin Hazelnuts

Ingredients and Equipment Needed

  • 1 pound (about 4 cups shelled) hazelnuts
  • Large clean kitchen towel
  • Large mixing bowl

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line large mixing bowl with the kitchen towel and set aside.
  3. Arrange hazelnuts in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast in oven about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  5. They are done when fragrant, and they appear to be a bit shiny, glistening.
  6. Pour roasted nuts into center of kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  7. Bring up all of the edges of the towel so that the nuts are in the bottom, like a hobo pouch (I hope that expression is not deemed as not politically correct).
  8. Rub the bag of hazelnuts. Give it a good healthy massage so that the roasted nuts are rubbing against one another. This will loosen not all but much of the skins.
  9. Transfer the hazelnuts with your hands to the fine-mesh sieve. By using your hands rather than just dumping the contents of the towel into the sieve, you will leave much of the skins behind. Shake the sieve to remove more (almost all?) of the remaining skins.
  10. Enjoy.

It's Time To Get Started

Now that we have properly roasted and removed the skins from our hazelnuts, and have a large jar of Nutella, let's start cooking and baking.

Recipes In This Article

  • Hazelnut-parsnip soup (V)
  • Creamy pumpkin soup with hazelnut frico (V)
  • Roasted squash over arugula with goat cheese and hazelnut salad (V)
  • Creamy chicken-hazelnut salad
  • Cranberry-hazelnut turkey wellington
  • Stuffed acorn squash with hazelnuts, quinoa, and kale (V)
  • Nutella no-bake cookies (V)
  • Nutella frosting (V)
  • Nutella breakfast rolls (V)
  • Nutella tart with hazelnut crust (V)

(V) = vegetarian

Soups

Hazelnut Parsnip Soup

As I write this we are sitting in the midst of Winter. The days are short, the wind blows, and I judge the temperature outside by the thickness of the water in the birdbath. It's COLD! This creamy parsnip soup with hazelnuts is warm comfort in a bowl.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup With Hazelnut Frico

Rich, savory-sweet pumpkin soup is topped with a salty-crunchy wafer of Parmesan cheese and toasted hazelnuts.

Salads

Roasted Squash Over Arugula With Goat Cheese And Hazelnuts Salad

This is one of my favorite winter-time salads. Oven-roasted squash is creamy soft inside with fantastical carmelized edges. If you don't have arugula (or don't care for it) you can certainly substitute fresh spinach. Nutmeg and sage are the comfort seasonings of winter. Hazelnuts provide a rich, buttery crunch and goat cheese crumbles are the contrasting tangy contrast to the sweetness of the acorn squash.

Creamy Chicken-Hazelnut Salad

This creamy chicken-hazelnut salad is so very adaptable. I like to add an apple in place of the tomatoes, and celery in place of the crunchy cucumber, but hey, that's just me. Punch it up with crumbled Gorgonzola or creamy Havarti crumbles if you're in the mood. Serve as a simple salad, or buy some good-quality oatmeal or whole-grain bread, spread this on top, and you will have an amazing whole-meal sandwich fancy enough for a luncheon.

Main Dishes

Cranberry-Hazelnut Turkey Wellington

Imagine all of the wonderful flavors of Thanksgiving in one show-stopping dish. A tender boneless turkey breast is adorned with cranberries and hazelnuts and then enveloped with buttery puff pastry.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Hazelnuts, Quinoa, and Kale

These stuffed accord squash are a complete meal, vegan and gluten-free. Quinoa provides protein, kale is a rich source of iron and Vitamin A, the creamy soft squash is full of beta-carotene and rich in fiber, and the hazelnuts add a satisfying contrast of crunch.

Nutella Treats

Nutella No-Bake Cookies

Even my non-baking friends should be able to make these cookies. Bill, I'd like a dozen please when you get around to it. Thank you so much!

Nutella Frosting

It's someone's birthday today. No, I don't know who, but nevertheless, I think that's reason enough to make some cupcakes and top them with this creamy frosting.

Or maybe not. Forget about the cupcakes. I'll just make the frosting.

Nutella Breakfast Rolls

These don't require hours of mixing the dough, proofing, punching down, shaping, rising, and baking. If you have a roll of crescent dough (from the refrigerator case) and a jar of Nutella you have all you need to make these breakfast rolls.

Nutella Tart With Hazelnut Crust

This tart is definitely the grand finale. Yes, it does require some baking, and it takes a while longer than opening a can of crescent roll dough, but your efforts will be richly rewarded. Your family will love you.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Lum

    Comments

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        7 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Thanks, Eric. I was hoping that you would like these.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Yummy in my tummy.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        7 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Lawrence, you have a keen palate. Yes, there are hazelnuts (also called filberts) hiding in the Ferero Rocherre.

        I had no idea that NZ is populated with Douglas fir and Redwoods. Actually, I'm not quite sure what I envisioned, that certainly isn't it. Maybe it could be my 'get away from winter' place, although the past 2 years have given us very gentle winters indeed. Thanks for stopping by.

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        7 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Linda

        I wonder if Ferrero use the Hazelnut in their 'Ferrero Rocherre' that everyone so loves?

        I think you'l love living in New Zealand, we also have the Douglas fir and the California Redwoods, though they're not as big yet as they are in the USA!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Thanks Kari, I tend to favor savory rather than sweet also. The salad is good, and so is the acorn squash. True comfort food!

      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 

        8 months ago from Ohio

        I love hazel nuts but Nutella is too sweet for me. That acorn squash salad looks wonderful. The breakfast rolls look interesting.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, I have heard of black walnuts, and I know that they are not like "standard" walnuts, but I have never tasted one. Do you use them in baking, or are they better suited to savory dishes?

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        8 months ago from USA

        I love hazelnuts! Those breakfast rolls are a definite try, and I have to have the recipe for that frosting! You're right. Who needs the cupcakes when you have this? I sure wish I had hazelhut trees in my small yard. I do have black walnut trees and I love their musty taste as much as the squirrels do.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Mary, if you can find hazelnuts let me know and I'll share a recipe with you on how to make your own Nutella. In fact, I'll add it to this article.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        8 months ago from Brazil

        I wish someone would wake me up in the middle of the night and get me to sample Nutella. LOL

        I love the stuff but it is so expensive here in our area. It's considered a luxury item and is taxed heavily.

        That chocolate tart looks fantastic.

        I haven't seen hazelnuts here but they are one of my husband's favorites.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, the mailbox is overflowing this week (seems it's always feast or famine and nothing in between), so I'll answer this with installment #16. I hope that's OK. If you need an immediate answer you can send me an email or IM on Facebook.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        8 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I remember going around the neighborhood with my mom and picking hazelnuts, bringing them home for snacks. Seems like I've always liked them.

        On a different note, a question for your Mailbag series: is there such a thing as a white sauce, for pasta, which is a low cholesterol sauce?

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