One of my fondest holiday memories from my childhood is of the countless hours I spent cracking almonds, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts for my father to devour. As a kid, I didn’t yet appreciate how delicious these treats were were but I sure enjoyed the process of cracking them and extracting the edible gems inside. When I discovered a bag of Ontario-grown walnuts from Warner’s Farm in my Holiday Farmers’ Feast basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, it brought me right back to those happy memories. A quick trip through the frying pan with some sugar, butter, salt and chili powder was all these lovely walnuts needed to dress them up for a cheese board. The beauty of this method is that you don’t need to toast the nuts prior to candying them, as they will toast in the skillet while the sugar melts and caramelizes. I served them up with a nice wedge of Corvecciu, a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese from Canreg Station Farm and Pasture Dairy, also available at the Market. They’d also be delicious sprinkled on a salad.
- 1 cup (250 mL) walnut pieces
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) maple or white granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salted butter
- Put walnuts, sugar, chili powder, salt and butter in a medium sized skillet.
- Cook over medium to medium-low heat for about ten minutes, stirring often as the sugar melts. Once the sugar is melted, you should stir constantly to keep the nuts and sugar from burning.
- The nuts are finished when the sugar has turned a dark golden brown and is adhering to them.
- Transfer the coated nuts to a sheet of parchment paper and use two forks to quickly separate the nuts so they won’t stick together in one big clump.
- Let cool 5 minutes before eating.
Makes 1 cup; can easily be doubled.