Piedmont is famous for its wine, but if you travel to its hilltops you will find this regions true hidden gem, the hazelnut, the heart of Piedmont. Not long ago I traveled to Piedmont and had the pleasure to visit Cuor di Nocciola, an organic hazelnut farm located in the village Cravanzana on the hilltops of Langhe (550 meters above sea level), a village with 400 inhabitants.
The drive up to the farm was scenic, as it was in late September the vines were filled with grapes ready to be harvested and at every curve, I wanted to stop and take photos of the postcard views.
Organic hazelnut farm in Piedmont
Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by the family and Barbara welcomed us into their shop where she shared the history behind their family business which has been going on for 4 generations. The main core of their business has been to sell hazelnuts to the industry but for 2 years they have started to also do their own products. In their shop you can find their 5 products: toasted hazelnuts, 100% hazelnut spread, Delicata hazelnut spread, cocoa hazelnut spread, and also dark cocoa hazelnut spread. Barbara explained to us that they have spent lots of time experimenting with different ingredients in order to produce their own products and in the end, they ended up to only using three ingredients: their own organic hazelnut, organic cane sugar from Argentina, and organic cocoa from Brazil. Their product that only contains hazelnuts is 100% hazelnut spread and is often used for making hazelnut ice cream, but also in risotto, together with cheese, and many other dishes.
Their Delicata hazelnut spread, hazelnut spread mixed with cane sugar, you can use as a spread, or as a sweetener to your coffee, or simply eat it like it is from the jar :-)
Tasting organic hazelnut products
Barbara brought all their 5 products to the table where she presented each and one of them and the ingredients they used and we got to taste them all. Knowing that they use their own organic hazelnuts that they have hand-selected you will understand the high quality of their products, the roasted hazelnuts are for example perfect as a snack. The Delicata, which is a paste of hazelnuts and sugar is perfect as a sweetener in coffee and the cocoa hazelnut spreads can be used on bread but also in pastries and cookies. I liked all of them and bought one of each, but finished them way too fast! I already look forward to returning and filling up my stock :-)
Using 5 times more hazelnuts than the industrial made
What is the difference between a pure cocoa hazelnut spread and an industrial made? Cuor di Nocciolas Cocoa Hazelnut spread contains as much as 50,5% hazelnuts and the remaining ingredients are unrefined cane sugar and cocoa. To understand how pure their products are you can compare them with an industrial-made cocoa hazelnut spread that more or less contains: sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts (13%), skimmed milk powder (8.7%), fat-reduced cocoa (7.4%), emulsifier: lecithins (soya), vanillin. As you can see the amount of hazelnuts is almost 5 times more than in an industrial-made cocoa hazelnut spread. In the industrial cocoa, hazelnut spread the main ingredients are sugar and then oil, in order to cover up for the taste and the absence of the natural oil from hazelnut that is more expensive.
Work together with and respect for nature
Most of the work at this organic hazelnut farm is done manually, they work throughout the whole year taking care of the trees in the grove. They don’t use any pesticides and you may see the goats in the grove. The goats eat the grass which limits the pests so that the trees can grow healthy and no use of pesticides is needed.
Why is the hazelnut from Piedmont special?
What’s so special about the hazelnut from Piedmont? The hazelnut that Cuor di Nocciola is growing is called “tonda gentile” thanks to the soil with clay and the seawind with salt it gives a special flavor to this hazelnut. When a hazelnut tree has been planted, its not until after 8 years that it will give hazelnuts and once its produces hazelnuts the three will live for as long as 120 years. One tree can produce up to 10 kg of hazelnuts.
Cuor di Nocciola produces 40 000 kg of hazelnuts per year, most of the hazelnuts they sell to industries, and the products they make with their hazelnuts you can find in their shop in Cravanzana, Piedmont, but also on their website and they sell them to distributors worldwide. But it seems that wine lovers who travel in Piedmont have finally discovered the true gem of this region and more and more people are coming to visit the farm of Barbara and her family. However nothing has changed for tourism and I guess that’s why people like it, for its authenticity.
How the hazelnuts are processed
Marco Robaldi let us enter the laboratory so we could see how they process the hazelnuts. It felt like walking into a chocolate factory, the smell of hazelnut was in the air. Marco explained that they work with 6 kg of hazelnuts at a time. As I wrote earlier most of the work on the farm is done manually and there are no exceptions in their laboratory. In mid-August when the hazelnuts have fallen down from the trees they are collected and let to dry under the sun. Thereafter they are crushed to separate the hazelnut from the shell and then put in a refrigerator in order not to lose their aroma. First, there is a manual selection by hand, where the hazelnuts are put on a table and Barbara removes the bad hazelnuts. Almost 50% of the hazelnuts remain after the first selection. Then the hazelnuts are roasted and will undergo a second inspection by hand where the bad hazelnuts are removed. At the second inspection, almost 50% of the hazelnuts are removed. So you understand that what remains is really the most high-quality hazelnut. The remaining hazelnuts are raffinated in a machine and turned into a rich and thick paste. Here you have one of the 5 products of Cuor di Nocciola, the 100% hazelnut spread. In the laboratory, everything is done in sequences. Some of the hazelnut spread will be mixed with sugar, for their Delicata product, and then mixed with cocoa for their Cocoa Hazelnut spread and the last product that is made is the Dark Cocoa Hazelnut spread. This way they optimize the production.
Visit the organic hazelnut farm
If you will be traveling to Piedmont I highly recommend you to visit Cuor di Nocciola to taste the true essence of Piedmont. In their shop you will find all their products for sale and you can also do a tasting and try all their 5 products that they produce using their own organic hazelnuts.
Cuor di Nocciola delle Langhe
Via Luigi Einaudi, 2 – 12050 Cravanzana (CN) ITALY