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Capturing the Pure Flavor of Nuts

Fine Cooking Issue 49
Photos, except where noted: Terence McCarthy
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Nut oils from California Press taste amazingly like a mouthful of super-fresh nuts. Such big flavor from such a small bottle is even more striking when you learn that it’s just a crew of three—Gayle and Chuck Schutte and owner John Baritelle —that produces these remarkable walnut, hazelnut, pecan, almond, and pistachio oils, working in fifteen-pound batches in their small, simple Napa Valley workroom.

While some larger-scale producers use nut fragments and pieces of the shell to extract as much oil as possible from the nuts during pressing, only whole and half nutmeats go into this press, and the result is a much fuller, cleaner flavor. And because California Press oils don’t go through refining, no additional oils need be added after pressing to intensify flavor, as large-scale presses sometimes need to do.

Whole and half nutmeats are ground, hand-scooped, and weighed for each pressing.

Ground nuts are loaded into a small press with a fifteen-pound capacity. “We’ve talked about getting a bigger machine,” say the Schuttes, “but we’ve decided to stay small and hands-on.” All the nuts that go into California Press oils are from family-run farms.

Freshly pressed pecan oil streams out of the press. At this point, the oil is poured through a cheesecloth sieve to filter out any stray bits of fresh nuts, and then the oil goes straight to the bottle. The cakey pomace left behind after pressing still has lots of flavor, so it’s sifted into nut flour for use in baking.


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