Among many other food delights in August, it is also the month where the hazelnuts – or noisettes as the French more poetically call them – ripen and become ready for use.
Many of us – at least from the Scandinavian part of Europe – best know hazelnuts as the dried nuts used to celebrate Christmas or as basis for cakes – also in their dried version. However, the fresher, younger noisettes, which are available these weeks at the markets in Bruxelles, can also be used for many purposes in cooking, In fact Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food states that in most countries noisettes are traditionally eaten fresh (“green”), either as they are or used in sweet dishes though some places, such as Spain, also used in savoury dishes. Most famously in Spain is the sauce Romesco from Tarragona, based on fresh, roasted hazelnuts originally, possibly combined with almonds.
However, my food delight in August is to make jams and preserves and a favorite is always a jam of plums with fresh hazelnuts. This year I had the possibility to use the small but tasty prunes de Namur, which combined with the fresh hazelnuts create a beautifully nutty taste of the last of the summer. To be enjoyed as autumn and winter gets closer and closer.
As for any jams in general the recipes are simple: plums, sugar, a lemon, possibly a bit of water, and then the chopped, fresh noisettes. Not too many, not too few. For two kilos of plums I used 200 g of fresh hazelnuts (in not too small pieces) and 1,8 kg of sugar (the plums were fairly sour though tasty).
At your cauldrons!