Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Soak Your Nuts

A Word or Two About Whey

Whey is the clear liquid that separates from most whole, natural types of yogurt or raw milk. You'll see it filling up the hole you left yesterday when you took a spoonful of yogurt out of the carton (unless it's adulterated, homogenized yogurt, which you should not be eating if you have a choice). This fresh whey is not the same as the stuff you buy as a powder or protein substitute. It's magical.

You can acquire whey from plain, whole milk yogurt by stirring it, placing it in a small strainer lined with fine cheesecloth, and suspending it over a bowl for an hour or more. (Do this in the fridge if you're going to leave it for a longer time.) You will soon have created soft yogurt cheese in the strainer, great for spreading, and whey, the yellowish liquid that drained off into the bowl. It's very useful for lacto-fermenting preserved foods (a subject for another post).

How to Soak and Dry Nuts

This process vastly improves the taste of walnuts, pecans, and cashews! Not to mention the added benefits in digestibility. According to Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions) soaking nuts in salty water activates enzymes that neutralize the “enzyme inhibitors” nuts contain, which make them hard to digest. We’ve been doing this for years now, most successfully with the following:

Walnuts and Pecans

Buy raw, whole walnut or pecan halves. To soak, pour them into a glass bowl and cover generously with water, leaving about two or three inches above the nuts to allow for expansion. Add 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt,* depending on your taste preferences. Stir, cover, and leave overnight (or 12 to 24 hours).

Next morning, pour the scary-looking, brown mixture through a strainer and thoroughly rinse off the yucky soaking water. (Joseph says this shows you why they taste better after soaking. Also, your body-computer registers “easier to digest” and sends a happy message to your tastebuds!)

To dry, spread the nuts on a stainless steel cookie sheet or two. If you can keep your oven to 150 degrees and no higher (usually on the Warm setting, but use an oven thermometer to be sure), you can dry them for 8-12 hours in the oven. Otherwise, use a dehydrator to dry the nuts. They’re done when you can cool one and it tastes right: not soggy, but crisp and dry in the middle, and not too overdried or it will taste chalky. Cool completely! then store them in an airtight jar.

(*We eat low-salt most of the time, so we use only about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per package of nuts, but you might enjoy a saltier taste. Sally Fallon recommends 2 teaspoons of sea salt for 4 cups of walnuts or pecans, but we generally find her recipes too salty for our taste. Suit yourself.)


Buy raw, whole cashews. However, during their processing, “raw” cashews must go through a heat process twice. This makes them a little trickier to soak and dry, but still easy if you follow the directions carefully and well worth it for the improvement in taste!

As with walnuts and pecans, soak them in salted water, but NO MORE THAN SIX HOURS! Set a timer if you have to. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a slimy mess.

And you’ll want to dry them faster, so use an oven or dehydrator set at 200 or 250 degrees. At 200 degrees in our oven, they take about 12 hours to reach the ideal texture: crisp, but not chalky. Take some out, cool them, and taste until they're right for you.

* * * *

You may need to experiment to find just the right temperature and timing combinations for your equipment and lifestyle, but soaking nuts soon becomes an easy addition to your routine. We now do this regularly and wow, can we taste the difference! Plus, your entire digestive tract will thank you.

By the way, we’ve tried soaking and/or sprouting almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds, but these three are our favorites. Nourishing Traditions will give you plenty more ideas, however. -- Lianne

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