We are super lucky to have such an abundant fruit farm – but MAN! it is a lot of work to figure out how when to harvest, how to process and how to store the large variety of fruit we have. I’m writing this how-to guide on processing macadamia nuts at home as I’m dealing with my second annual harvest from a tree that was planted on the farm by the previous owners. It just started to produce last year (my 6th year here). So I’m guessing our tree is about 13 years old now. Another fun fact about mac nut trees, they self pollinate (almost all varieties at least), so you only need one to get a good fruit set.
Unlike many of my tropical culinary projects, this one may actually be worth the time considering how much macadamia nuts cost in the stores, even in Hawaii. Cassava flour on the other hand… that DYI is a labor of love. For me macadamia nut season is a time when I get to cozy up in the kitchen, put on my new favorite Spanish-Language series and crack nuts all night long.
How to process macadamia nuts at home
- freshly havested macadamia nuts
Harvesting Macadamia Nuts
- Your macadamia nuts will drop from the tree when they are ready to harvest.
- For ease in harvesting, it is good to mow around the tree on the highest setting regularly. Or, if your tree is an a shadded area with a lot of leaf drop, you can use a leaf blower to seperate the leaves from the shells.
- I like to harvest them from the ground every 2-3 days, but you can let them sit as long as a week.
Husking the macadamia nuts
- It is important to husk the macadamia nuts soon after harvesting them about 24 hours. This is because if left in their shell with poor oxygen flow, it will cause mold and make the husks harder to remove, increasing processing time. But, if more time goes by, you can still harvest, remove the half cracked husks, and we like to recommend a thorough cleaning of any mold in warm water first and then food grade hydrogen peroxide.
- To husk them, I use my macadamia nut cracker. It usually takes one or 2 cracks to remove the husks. Place them on your drying racks.
Drying the macadamia nuts
- If you have ever tried cracking a mac nut right away you will notice they stick to the shell and they sort of taste like coconut. To get that fatty macadamia nut you crave, you need to reduce the initial moisture content of the macadamia by airdrying it for 2-3 weeks. This can be done in a place that is out of direct sunlight and gets decent airflow. I like to dry ours on our screened in porches. I have the best results using trays with holes on the bottom. Specifically, I use trays from a previous dehydrator we had that broke. They are perfect for enhancing airflow and containing the nuts. I use a china marker to date the trays for easy tracking. Every few days I roll them around a little to get airflow to the different sides.
- After the initial air drying, you will notice the nuts are more easily removed from the shell but parts still stick. You will also notice a change in color. Pictured to the bottom are mac nuts that have been air-dried about 3 weeks versus the picture on the top only a few days. Now, you need to dry them further at a higher temperature. This is best done in your dehydrator on a low "nut" setting of about 104° F for about 2 days. I find my Ivation dehydrator is actually perfect for this. The nuts fit perfecting into the wire mesh drying sheets. If you have extra space – evenly space out the trays so all the nuts get a lots of air. About 2 times a day it is good to roll them around a little to change their position. After 2 days you can increase the temperature to 130-150° F and check them every couple hours until the shell is very brittle and cracks easily. When the mac nut is perfectly done you can hear it rattle around inside the shell.
- If you do not have a dehydrator, you can also use your oven on the lowest setting (mine is 170° F). But they will dry much quicker, which is not necessarily better. If they dry too quick, they may dry unevenly, change color, and they are prone to getting a brown, tough spot in the middle of the nut. This is the case especially when they are roasted and can result in a less desirable taste.
Cracking & storing the macadamia nuts
- Once they are uniformly dry, cozy up and start the final cracking.
- The raw macadamia nuts can be kept in an air tight container, but they are best stored in the fridge or freezer. You will also benefit from vacuum sealing them for prolonged life.
Roasting the macadamia nuts
- You can roast them in the oven on about 275° F for 20-30 minutes, best done on wire mesh baking sheets (like the ones in my dehydrator). If you want them salted toss them in a small amount of oil and salt.