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With Christmas just around the corner, shelves are full of pine cones. Even in the supermarket, the woody fruits cavort between the vegetables. They come with instructions on how to open them. However, attempts to open it often end in frustration and disappointment. Pinecones are extremely stubborn and need the right treatment before they reveal their delicious kernels. With these instructions it is no problem to open cones and free seeds from their shells.
If you buy a pine cone in a store, it usually comes from the Italian stone pine. This is the actual pine, which is of economic importance because of its seeds. There are other pine species that produce edible seeds. To crack a tenon, you don't necessarily need to know the original type. However, knowing the tree species can provide you with valuable information on how to later remove the core from its shell. There are conifers that produce particularly soft cores. In other species, the seed coat is extremely hard and robust.
- Italian stone pines develop hard-shelled seeds
- Mexican pinyon pines produce buttery seeds surrounded by a hard shell
- White pines from America have soft-shelled seeds
- Nut pine has large kernels that are easy to crack and taste sweet and fruity
Ripe pine cones open naturally when exposed to heat. The cones slowly dry out, causing the scales to crack open. You can put your cone on the heater and wait. However, this method usually takes several weeks, and by then the pine nuts may have gone bad. You can recognize inedible kernels by a musty smell and the greyish discoloration. The opening process is faster if you place the fruit next to a chimney. You can enjoy the sweet and nutty kernels on the same evening.
If you don't have a chimney and don't want to wait until the seeds are inedible, you can use heat to open the cones. It is not guaranteed that the pine cones can later be used for decorative purposes. For such use, you need to ensure even drying and keep moistening the cone. As a result, the lignified tissue remains elastic and does not come off completely.
Prepare the oven
The cones will pop open after a few minutes in the oven if it is set to 60 to 80 degrees Celsius. The individual scales detach with loud cracking noises, so that the light-colored cores become visible. However, the cones should not be lost sight of, because the cones open differently depending on the degree of dryness. As soon as the spigot is fully open, you can switch off the oven.
Let the cones cool down
The pine cones are very hot after this method and should not be touched directly. Leave the fruit in the oven with the door open for half an hour. You can then touch it and continue to treat it without risk of burns.
Very few cores come off simply by shaking. Often the individual seeds are stuck between the segments. You can try to get each core out one by one with your finger. This time-consuming work is necessary if you later want to use the cone for decoration. The cracking in the oven has often already caused so many scales to come loose that the remaining fruit only looks bare. In this case, you can disassemble the cone with a knife to get to the coveted cores.
Remove seed coat
The cores, which are about two centimeters long, are surrounded by a hard seed coat. If you didn't buy a pine cone, but a bag of what you thought was pine nuts, the seeds can also come from other pine trees. First find out what species it is. You can then remove the shell from the edible pine nuts using different methods:
- Fill the soft kernels into a freezer bag and work with a rolling pin
- crack hard kernels with a nutcracker
- Roast the soft or hard kernels dry in a pan and then remove the shell by hand
tip: Place the pine nut in the notched part of the can opener, which is where the two handles join. Squeeze the handles until the core bursts open.
Store pine nuts
Due to their high fat content, the peeled kernels do not keep very long. They should be kept in sealable containers or bags and consumed within the next few weeks. Seeds can be kept for two to three weeks in dry and cool conditions. However, avoid storing it in the fridge. The humid air can quickly spoil the seeds. In addition, smells from other foods impair the fine taste.
tip: The nuclei are less sensitive when they are surrounded by their protective seed coat. These can be stored in a cool place for two to three months.