Wild nuts that grow in clusters on the hazel tree. The fuzzy outer husk opens as the nut ripens, revealing a hard, smooth shell. Hazelnuts have a bitter brown skin that is best removed, usually by heating them at 350F for 10-15 minutes, until the skins begin to flake. These sweet, rich, grape-size nuts are used chopped, ground and whole. Also called a filbert, the origin of which may be from St. Philibert, a 7th century Frankish abbot, whose feast day (August 20) is in the middle of nutting season in Europe.
The best place to store shelled hazelnuts is in the freezer at 27F or less. They will last up to two years if stored in plastic bags or containers. The next best place to store shelled hazelnuts is in the refrigerator at 32-35F. They last up to one year if packaged in airtight plastic bags or containers so they do not pick up odors. Before using, let nuts warm to room temperature in unopened bag.
Hazelnuts are delicious eaten right out of the shell, but their best flavor is apparent when they are toasted/roasted. The flavor then turns smoky and robust and the texture is crisp and crunchy. To toast: slow roast in 275F oven. Spread shelled nuts in a shallow baking pan and roast for 20-30 minutes, until the skin cracks and the meat turns light golden. To remove the skins, pour hot nuts in the center of a rough kitchen terry towel. Pull the towel up around the nuts and twist tightly. Let stand to steam for about five minutes then rub the warm nuts in the towel until most of the skins are removed.