Pine nuts are little seeds that grow inside pine cones. They have a mild flavor that pairs equally well with meats, vegetables and desserts. Pine nut harvesters must remove the pine cones and dry them in the sun for days in order to access the inner pine nuts. Since the harvesting process is performed by hand, it is slower than other nut harvesting methods and often results in a higher price. Pine nuts have an outer shell that needs to be removed before you can eat them, but the shell’s hard texture requires more force than other soft-shelled nuts.
Place your shelled pine nuts into a plastic food storage bag. Squeeze out all of the air from the inside of the bag, then close it securely.
Lay the bag flat onto a hard work surface (such as a tabletop or kitchen counter). Place a rolling pin near the bottom of the bag, making sure to press down forcefully.
Roll the pin upwards to crack the pine nut shells, then roll it back down. Repeat the process until all of the pine nut shells crack.
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Open the plastic food storage bag. Grab each pine nut between your thumb and index finger and peel off any remaining shell fragments.
Discard the shell pieces. Consume the shelled pine nuts immediately for the best results.
Keep your pine nuts in the freezer before shelling them to increase their shelf life and prevent their natural oils from spoiling.
If you don’t have a plastic food storage bag, you can place the pine nuts between two towels to stabilize the nuts before rolling them.
Never remove pine nut shells until just prior to eating them, otherwise the oils in the nuts will start to quickly go bad--the insides of pine nuts contain a high amount of oil and direct exposure to air can make them go rancid faster than if they were in their protective shells.
Do not hit the pine nuts with the rolling pin or you risk crushing the nuts into fine pieces.
Allison Boelcke graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's in English and a minor in psychology. She worked in print journalism for three years before deciding to pursue Internet writing. She is now a contributing web writer for Demand Studios and Conjecture Corporation.