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Cashews, Soaked and Drying

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cashews1Cashews are a magical ingredient in the raw food world but they have been gaining great popularity in the cooked world too.  Vegan chefs use them as a staple that stands in for dairy in a variety of ways.  Cashews don’t have a really strong flavor of their own, they are just a vessel for fat and creaminess.  Apparently, roasting them brings out the sweetness in cashews.  Did you know that cashews technically are not nuts? Instead, they are the seeds found in cashew apples, a fruit that grows on trees in tropical climates.

Cashews are sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm.  This must be removed before they are fit for consumption.  This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides.   The removal process brings up much controversy as to whether or not cashews can be purchased raw or not.

Because cashews don’t have a thick outer skin and they already start off as a softer nut, they only need to be soaked for about 2-3 hours.  You can soak them over night, just be sure to place them in the fridge.  Over soaking them can lead to bitterness, slimy water and a leaching of their flavor.  I soak cashews for two reasons… one is to reduce the phytic acid found within them and the second reason is for softening them which make them easier to process.   With a high-powered blender you can make the creamiest-mouth-feel textures!  This is the one nut that I don’t immediately soak and dehydrate once bringing them home.  For the most part I use wet, soaked cashews in my recipes; creams, sauces, desserts, “yogurts“, etc.  The only time I soak and dehydrate them is when I am planing on adding them to a trail mix, or when making a flour out of them.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 8 cups water

Preparation:

Dehydrator method:

  1. Place the cashews and salt in a large bowl along with 8 cups of water.  The cashews will swell during the soaking process, so you want enough water to keep them covered.
  2. Leave them in a warm location for 2-3 hours.  Cover with a clean cloth and lay it over the bowl, this allows the contents of the bowl to breathe.
  3. After they are done soaking, drain them in a colander and rinse them well.
  4. Spread the cashews on the mesh sheet that comes with the dehydrator.  Keep them in a single layer and dry them at 115 degrees (F) until they are thoroughly dry and crisp.  Make sure they are completely dry.  If not, they could mold, plus they won’t have that crunchy, yummy texture you expect from nuts and seeds.  The dry time will vary due to the machine you own, the type of climate you live in and how full your dehydrator is when drying them.   Expect anywhere from 12 + hours.
  5. Allow them to cool to room temperature before storing.
  6. Store in airtight containers such as mason jars.  If you plan on using them with in 3 months you can store them in the fridge.  Anything longer, store in the freezer.

Oven method: (no longer raw)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Spread the cashews on an ungreased cookie sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Don’t leave them unattended, due to their high oil content, they will continue to roast after you remove them from the oven.  when toasted correctly they taste toasted, not bitter or burnt.  Good idea to stir them around a bit throughout the process.
  4. Cool for about 1 hour.   Make sure that they are cool before storing.
  5. Note ~  you can also slow roast the cashews by setting your oven on the lowest setting, adjust the roast time accordingly.   You can also attempt to dry the almonds in the oven and keep them raw but this is tricky.  You will need to set the oven on the lowest setting, keep the door ajar and hang a thermometer in the oven to watch the temperature.  Nothing is impossible.  With this method… good luck and do your best. :)

Many people choose not to consume cashews because they contain oxalates.  So I started to research this a bit more.  I read, “Cashews are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating cashews. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we’ve seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits” (source)  For more information on oxalates and which foods contain them, you can read about it (here).

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