AS we get closer to the holiday season, baking is something I look forward to doing. In my family, some like baked goods with nuts and some them without nuts. According to the California Walnut board, the best way to store walnuts is in your refrigerator or freezer. If you are going to use the walnuts right away, put them in the refrigerator. You can store them in the original packaging. But, realize that strong odor like fish, cabbage, onions can be absorbed by the walnuts. If you’ll be storing them longer than a month, go ahead and store them in the freezer. Once you open the bag, transfer walnuts to an airtight container to maintain freshness. If you buy in bulk walnuts, either in-shell or shelled, place the walnuts in an airtight container for long-term cold storage.
Keeping the walnuts cold maintains the fresh taste. Walnuts go rancid when exposed to warm temperatures for long periods of time. Heat causes the fat in walnuts to change structure, which creates off odor and flavors. Rancid nuts are not unsafe, but they have a sharp flavor most people find unpleasant. Fresh walnuts smell mildly nutty and taste sweet. If your walnuts smell like paint thinner, you know they are rancid. And if they are rancid, you should throw them away!
Harvesting and Packing
California walnuts are harvested late August through November and then stored in cold storage to maintain freshness. Since they are plentiful in the fall and winter months, consider stocking up during this time of year. Keeping the walnuts in the shell if possible to ensure you receive a high quality product throughout the year. It is better to wait and shell or chop walnuts until you are ready to use them. The same applies for ground walnut meal. Do not grid walnuts until you are ready to use them in your recipe. This will help maintain great flavor. Before eating walnuts that have been in the refridgetor or freezer bring nut back to room temperature before eating can help them taste nuttier. Walnuts in shells must be dry, clean, bright, and free from splits, injury by discoloration, and free from damage caused by broken shells, perforated shells, adhering hull or other means.
Food Safety Tips
According to a publication from the University of California (ANR Publication 8406), there are a couple of food safety tips:
- Wash hands prior to and directly after shelling nuts.
- If shelling whole nuts crack into a clean container.
- Washing the nuts in the shell is not recommended because the extra moisture could encourage bacteria or mold growth.
- Room temperature storage encourages insect growth. This is important to understand if you have backyard harvested walnuts. If you have backyard harvested walnuts, you’ll want to freeze the nuts for 48 hours to kill insects and their eggs unless you plan to store the nuts in the freezer or refrigerator.