It was quiet Sunday morning. Many were probably still sleeping. But for the early riser faced with an excellent gift, a bag of unshelled macadamias, a challenge awaited. Many different and failed attempts later, out came the hammer. It worked a treat.
We said walnuts were tricky nuts to crack (click here) - but they do, at least, have an obvious hinge point. The approach required for macadamia cracking is a little more oblique. Personal experience indicates you will work up quite a red face macadamia cracking. And, short of a specialised device for the task, the hammer was the only household item that seemed up for it.
All of that said, if you are keen on this delicacy, some of the great New Zealand produced macadamia nuts, packaged and ready to eat, are strongly recommended.
Our producers here will be in the harvesting (for some varieties) and pruning season right now. And then, post harvesting, husking and drying follow. There's a whole lot of drying technique that goes into a good nut. They are meant to be firm, light and crispy, not soft and doughy. This all hangs off how the drying has gone. So it's not just a case of picking and shelling, there's quite a bit more to creating those handsome crispy creamy balls.
It must be said, too, that they are a fantastic nut to crack. Of all nuts, they have a very high amount of healthy fat, and piles of other vitamins and minerals. Just like a health pill. But super tasty.
An outstanding Australian...
Where did you think they're from? What do you know, they're Aussies. Fair dinkum. So, while many great macadamia nuts are from here, they're not native.
They are a small presence on the world stage, only about two percent of world trade in nuts is macadamias. So, it’s fair to say that they are relative newcomers to tables of the world. And, for all you travellers, you'll know Hawaii is another spot on the globe with a big macadamia industry.
The Australian heritage gives a pretty good clue as to where you are likely to find them around here. They like warm climates, and they aren't fans of frosts. Think warm parts, pretty much the sunny spots in the top half of each of New Zealand’s main islands.
Mr John Macadam
And guess how they got their name. Well, they were named after Mr Macadam, who was a Scottish-Australian chemist and politician, by a botanist friend of his. We suspect it's fair to say aboriginal populations were the lucky ones that figured out how good they were first. But John Macadam’s colleague did a mighty job on the naming rights.
Putting them to good use
Macadamias’ relative scarcity means that they don’t come cheap. But provided you store them properly, they will last, and are worth every cent.
They have a high oil content, so like all oils, can go rancid if you don’t store them properly. It seems like the best idea is to keep them airtight and in the fridge - assuming you don’t eat the lot pretty much straight away.
There are plenty of macadamia by-product options too - dukkah, crumb mix, oil, confectionary, macadamia butter - which are great if you are wanting to grab something on the run. These products, and the nuts themselves, are highly versatile in cooking, with great texture and gentle rich taste. Muesli, baking, sweet treats, crusts for meat and fish, adding last minute crunch to vege dishes, pesto bases, soup and salad toppings - you name it, macadamias can do it.
A favourite macadamia idea is using macadamia butter to make an excellent winter nut and citrus salad dressing. For a macadamia and citrus dressing idea (used in a carrot salad), click here.
PS: You can buy macadamia butter. But, if you want to make it yourself, we suggest copying the peanut butter process - for that, click here.