While living in Switzerland I found myself missing good, salty fried peanuts, almonds, salty pumpkin seeds, etc. They were not easily found, at least as we had them in the USA in nut kiosks when I was young … hot and salty. The only time I found really great use of peanuts in Europe was in Paris, France, where street vendors sold the famous French burnt peanuts, which were sweet, slightly salty and only somewhat burnt, roasting on screens over small grills. They were yummy and we have nothing even remotely like them in the USA. This recipe is not about burnt peanuts for I have yet to try making them here. This recipe is about an idea I had in Switzerland for taking a variety of nuts and seeds as purchased and improving them.
Peanuts are available in many ways in the USA. There are dry roasted peanuts for health conscious people who want to avoid fats, and indeed fats are somewhat avoided by not frying the peanuts, but not a lot given the inherent fat content of peanuts … and they taste lousy. The unsalted varieties are even worse. Many canned peanuts that have been fried and salted are at best okay … few of them are what I would call yummy, and I have sampled many brands. Peanuts freshly fried and salted are rarely available, but when you can find a bar or other business that fries raw peanuts in small batches the resulting product is truly good. I know that by experience, for I do that also at home.
The peanuts I like best out of what we have commonly available commercially are the ones in shells that have been salt brined and roasted in the shell. They do have a small labor component in breaking the shells, however, and I wondered many times in the past why the nuts are not available brined in salt, roasted, without shells?
The confluence of that musing with the reality of poor nut selections in Switzerland led me to create what I wanted. I started by purchasing 500 gm packages of raw Pepitas. They were unsalted, not roasted and rather boring, so I decided to fix that problem, and my method gave such great results that I soon extended the method to include peanuts and almonds. In general, hard nuts and seeds are fine in this process, but I would not use softer nuts like pecans or walnuts.
1 lb. raw or canned fried peanuts (or almonds, pepitas, pumpkin seeds, etc.), unshelled
1 pint of water
¾ cup Kosher salt (or any other salt … sea salt will be very good)
Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
If you plan to brine almonds then it is best to blanch the almonds first and then to pinch them to remove the skins. It is unnecessary to blanch peanuts as the skins typically come off during the brining process, and if they don’t it doesn’t matter as they taste good anyway. Bitter almond skins, however, detract from the flavor.
Put the water and the salt into a one or two quart saucepan. Heat the mixture on high heat while stirring until most of the salt dissolves.
Put the nuts into the salt brine and stir well. The brine should barely cover the nuts, and if it does not then add just enough water to make that happen. Stir well.
Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let it boil gently for about three minutes.
Remove the nuts to a cookie sheet with a slotted spoon, leaving the brine in the saucepan. You can save the brine later in a plastic container and reuse it, adding water or salt as necessary each time a batch of nuts is processed.
Spread the brined nuts around the cookie sheet so they are not touching.
Put the cookie sheet into the preheated oven for 10 minutes. This applies to peanuts or almonds or other larger nuts, but not to flat seed products.
Note that peanuts and almonds will process well by this recipe, but Pepitas, pumpkin seeds and other small or flat seeds will burn if allowed to remain in the oven for more than a few minutes per side. Check them carefully every few minutes and stir them around with a spatula and remove them as soon as they have a light powdery salty surface.
Stir the peanuts/almonds with the slotted spoon or a spatula to promote even drying, then let them continue to bake/roast for 5 minutes.
When the nuts are dry, showing a lightly powdery salty surface, with no evident moisture remaining on the nuts or the cookie tray, remove them from the oven and spread them evenly in a large shallow bowl.
Let the hot nuts lose residual moisture for at least one hour, then put them into a Ziploc® freezer bag and seal it to keep moisture out.
Eat the nuts whenever you want. They will be crunchy, salty, delicious and not oily.
The brining process eliminated the oil from when the nuts were earlier fried by the manufacturer. If you started with raw nuts there wasn’t any excess oil to eliminate.