Saturday, February 25, 2012

Walnut Crazy - Orange & Spice Candied Walnuts

It is not lack of want to. It is just those damn squirrels that prevent me from harvesting my beloved walnuts each year. As soon as the tender meats begin to fill the inside of the shell's protective cavity and the heavy laden branches droop with weight of the thick green orbs the invasion begins. I don't know how they know when the meats are maturing. Is it an internal alarm set that goes off in the pea brain of this rat-with-a-fluffy-tail? Slealthily they come. First, a single scout along the highway of power lines, coming from who knows were as we haven't seen them for a season. Then a small band comes across the front of the house, nimbly jumping to the trees, fences, and guide-wires to the back of the house where our mighty walnut tree stands. They twitter and scold us as they capture their prizes, knawing through to tender, sweet flesh. Within a week or less, the tree is bare and all we have left are the piles of sharp shells like schrapnal on ground and a good case for an anger managment class. I no longer think squirrels are cute and endearing.

We were so excited when we bought this house and discoved our tree in the back yard. It is huge, providing much needed shade in the hot summer months, and at harvest time, ornamented in a single bright green theme. We had a walnut tree at our previous home too, a rented 100 year old farmhouse with fruit and citrus tree in the surrounding yard.  Spoiled, we collected the harvest and shelled the nuts each season for bag and bags of treasures for baking. On sunny days, my German-American father-in-law would sit on the back porch steps and gently rap the solid sealed shells in just the right spot to reveal the perfectly broken halves. My grandmother had several trees on her Santa Cruz property too and as a kid we would troop out with bags and buckets to collect the nuts each year. We would set up shelling parties around the kitchen table, covered in newspaper and cutting boards as we filled the bowls with nutmeats, giggling and pounding away for hours.

So you see, foraging or harvesting is nothing new, really. But these days I seem to hunt them down in the long dark aisles of the warehouse store and bring them home bagged three pounds at a time.

Fresh zest and warm spices infuse these lightly candied walnuts. Pin It

Besides loving the flavor of walnuts in baking, on salads or stuffed in tender chicken an added bonus is just how healthy they are. The benefits are becoming more well known as "walnuts in particular have a unique profile: they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may improve blood lipids and other cardiovascular disease risk factors." -- Walnuts and Health California Walnut Commission.

These lightly candied walnuts are really tasty sprinkled on a salad and were amazing in a little cake I made recently. Ready in 20 minutes and you have a whole lot of nuts to just snack on or add to a favorite recipe.

Orange & Spice Candied Walnuts
Makes 1 pound
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  10 minutes

1 pound shelled walnut meats
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon fresh orange zest
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon orange extract (used Nielsen-Massey Orange Extract)
2 tablespoons water

Line rimmed baking sheet pan with parchment paper.
Measure and combine spices (salt, cinnamon, zest, cardamom) in a small bowl.
Measure and mix sugars, extract and water in a small bowl.

  1. Heat 10-12” heavy bottom skillet over medium heat then add all walnut meats. Cook with frequent stirring for 5-6 minutes until they start to brown and begin to smell toasted.
  2. Add butter and continue stirring until it melts completely.
  3. Sprinkle with spice mixture and stir, mixing it all together.
  4. Add sugar mixture to nuts, stir to coat thoroughly and start to thicken, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and pour onto prepared baking sheet, arrange in a single layer, separate pieces with a fork.
  6. Allow to cool completely before storing in airtight container. Can be stored up to three weeks or frozen.
Cook’s Tips
Delicious to add to salads, cakes or cookies.
Inspiration: Spiced Pecans - Alton Brown 2008 

A note about this post:

Every once in a while I like to cook along with my virtual friends. This is a fun way to have an online potluck and share recipes with a common theme -- but with uncommon results. Foodies from all over participate in these Monthly Mingles started in 2006 by Meeta @What's For Lunch, Honey.

 "What does Heart Healthy mean?  Foods that heal and boost our health. From whole grains, to Omega 3's. Lots of good fats and fruit and veg.  Low-sodium and low-cholesterol. Everyone thinks that all results in boring food. This month our challenge is to create delicious food that won't only warm the heart but keep it healthy." Check out the submissions after February 29, 2012 hosted by LadyRaven at Add to Taste.


  1. Another stunner of a recipe, complete with sunny family history...delightful, Robin!

    1. I seem to be having a citrus theme in my head this month :D So glad you enjoyed this one Jenn!

  2. Oh yum, bring on the shrimps!

  3. These look absolutely divine. I think I might try them as part of a granola recipe. Thanks for sharing Robin!

  4. (I cannot believe I missed this monthly mingle - don't tell Meeta!) but what do I cook that is heart healthy?) Your story was adorable and made me smile all the way through. I kept having images of Gangland Troops of Squirrels surrounding your house! Sadly, it sounds like the birds and the cherry trees at my in-laws old house - gorgeous, perfect, plump, sweet cherries all eaten overnight by marauding birds! Too bad! And strange thing - I found a big mesh bag of walnuts in my cupboard, something we NEVER buy, and no one remembers where we got it from! Your recipe is singing to me....what a perfect snack!

    1. Dear Jamie: I promise not to tell Meeta ;-) Loved your naming the Gangland Troups - has a nice turn of phrase to it. Glad the squirrels didn't get your stash of walnuts.

  5. Those look divine! What great flavors.



  6. Yay, talking about walnuts! Love it! Now imagine 20+ acres of walnut trees to defend from the fur balls and imagine your blood pressure then :)

    Your family connection to walnuts was really fun to read about and the recipe looks delicious. We're pinning it!

    1. I can only imagine the horror of fighting of these pests in your orchards. Horrors! Thanks for the comment and the pin Limerock!


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