Going Nutty Over Advice for Preserving Nutmeats?

This time of year, you might be eager to find the best way to make your bounty of pecans, almonds, chestnuts, walnuts or peanuts last through the holiday season and beyond. While canning is a go-to for preserving, let’s not forget that some foods don’t fare so well as a canned product. USDA has never had a home canning recommendation for canning a pack of only nut meats, and the NCHFP website only has a recommendation for canning green peanuts from past work at the University of Georgia.

A previously (and no longer) recommended canning process for “canning” dry nutmeats found in So Easy to Preserve from the University of Georgia is no longer included in the new edition of the book. It was actually just a way to create a vacuum-sealed jar and there was no documentation for any microbial sterilization that might have been taking place. Questions about the risk (even if a low risk) of some bacterial growth if condensation of moisture occurred inside the jars from canning in boiling water led to re-consideration of this advice for sealing jars. Compared to when this was first published years ago, now there are other ways to vacuum pack dry, shelled nut meats at home without heating in boiling water.

Nuts tend to store very well by proper drying and storing in air-tight containers in a cool location. Refrigerated (at 32-45°F) nuts will maintain quality for one year and frozen (at 0°F) nuts will maintain quality for 1, 2, or even 3 years depending on the type of nut. See this publication from the University of California for more specific information about harvesting and storing different types of nuts.

While we know of no tested recommendations for canning pecan pie filling, another common request, you can easily make your pecan pies as usual, cool rapidly, and then freeze briefly before packaging for long term freezer storage (pies will be easier to wrap after freezing). Stored at 0°F, frozen pecan pies are expected to last 3-4 months.

Conserves are a delicious way to use up smaller quantities of nuts. By definition, conserves are jam-like products that contain nuts, raisins, and/or coconut. These conserve recipes allow you to choose your preferred nut type: Apple Conserve, Apricot-Orange Conserve, Cranberry Conserve, Damson Plum- Orange Conserve, Grape Conserve, and Plum Conserve.

Are you wondering why it’s ok to can nuts in conserves but not by themselves? The recommendation we withdrew was just one procedure for canning a jar of all nutmeats in a dry pack. There is nothing wrong with canning foods with nuts in them, if tested that way. Other recommendations (like conserves) were developed with a called for amount of nuts along with other ingredients which influence the characteristics of the final product. Let’s consider Apple Conserve, for example: Apples are an acid food and the lemon juice is a strong acid; if other ingredient proportions are kept as expected, the final product should remain acid enough for boiling water canning. Furthermore, in this conserve, the pectin and sugar combine with this acid and fruit to make a gel, which reduces the water activity of the final product. These characteristics make a difference in what the process recommendation should be, and were taken into consideration for that recipe when a canning process was determined.

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7 thoughts on “Going Nutty Over Advice for Preserving Nutmeats?

  1. Sheila

    You say there are no current tested recipes for pecan pie filling – what about nut syrups (Ball has 2)? Are nut meats in sugar syrup safe to can? How large can the pieces be, and how large the jars (Ball uses halfpints)? Thank you.

    1. nchfp Post author

      We do not have our own tested recipes and recommendations for nut syrups either. Nor do we have access to the testing information done for the recipes and processes in the Ball Blue Book, or other private sources. If you decide to use their procedures, and are not able to, or do not want to, follow them as written, you will need to contact the company directly to ask them, either by phone or by using “Contact Us” on their website:
      http://www.freshpreserving.com/contact-us . We do suggest that you follow only properly tested or research-based recommendations as published by reputable sources, which includes using jar sizes listed with the procedures.

  2. FirstMother47

    Thank you for the info about the nutmeats. My husband bought a very large bag (5 lbs) of roasted peanuts in the shell. I currently store them as is in my upright freezer in the door. Should I put them inside on the shelf, or will they be okay where they are? My gut feeling is to divide up the un-shelled peanuts into quart freezer bags and then set them back in the freezer on the bottom shelf. I would like to know if you agree.

    From what I remembered my grandmother doing over 30 yrs ago was freeze what we did not use (shelled, non-roasted walnuts) in the short term. They held up well for over a year.

    1. nchfp Post author

      We recommend that prepared foods that are still at all warm be spread out on freezer surfaces in order to freeze quickly. But since the pre-roasted and bagged peanuts are not warm (and also because they have a low moisture content which means their texture is less affected by the expansion of water during freezing), this placement is not so significant to the quality of the peanuts. Also, since nuts are shelf-stable notably longer than most perishable foods, they are not likely to be so affected by the minor temperature changes they might experience if placed in the freezer door (due to opening and closing of the door). So, they should be okay where they are, but if you prefer to bag them into quart size bags that would make it easier to thaw out portions closer to serving size rather than dealing with the whole bag. And there would be no harm in storing them on the bottom shelf in the back if you have room for them there.

  3. Randal Oulton

    Your apple conserve recipe looks good. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/apple_conserve_powder.html . Would it be possible to make safely it with a no sugar needed pectin and leave out the 5 1/2 cups of white sugar? Would the acidity from the apples and lemon juice be enough from a safety point of view, or is the copious amount of refined white sugar called for a critical safety element there? Thanks, cheers.

    1. nchfp Post author

      If you want to make a conserve without sugar, you should find a recipe developed for a pectin that does not require sugar to gel, as you suggest. Use an apple jam or spread recipe that comes with that pectin instead of trying to modify our conserve to fit this situation. The sugar in this conserve recipe also provides some of the liquid balance for this recipe, so you cannot simply cut out the sugar and expect a similar final product.

      The balance of ingredients for a high quality gelled fruit spread does not allow for making significant changes in key ingredients and then expecting similar results. The product would still be an acid food, but that does not automatically ensure protection from the growth of all molds, yeasts, or bacteria. The sugar content and binding of water can influence those spoilage controls, also. A longer canning process would most likely be needed without this sugar content, unless the water control was very high. The amount of pectin of a different type might not be correct for the volumes of other ingredients without the sugar.

      Acid, sugar, pectin, and fruit are all influential parts of the traditional gelled product. When using no sugar needed pectin, that “equation” no longer applies. And if the combination of ingredients does not yield the same degree of binding of water in the mixture, then the very short process time would not be expected to be adequate for the resulting mixture. For best results, we recommend that you use the recipes suggested on product packaging by the pectin manufacturer when using no sugar needed pectin. You can also find jam and conserve recipe suggestions online from the no sugar need pectin manufacturer Pomona:
      http://www.pomonapectin.com/recipes/ .

      1. Randal Oulton

        Thanks. Yeah I use no sugar needed pectin stuff exclusively already, and Pomona is part of my arsenal :} So sounds like you don’t see any immediate red safety flags; it’s just the getting the product to work / processing time part as per the Pomona etc directions… Thanks muchly I appreciate your answer and your time.

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