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Good way to see the world? Get your hands dirty



Last updated 11/21/2019 at 4:54pm

SharonAnn Hamilton shuffles through the dirt in search of fallen hazelnuts on a friend's orchard in the countryside of France. The subject of this pet-sitting gig is a dog named Noisette, who is helping SharonAnn harvest the hazelnuts.

SharonAnn Hamilton shuffles through the dirt in search of fallen hazelnuts on a friend's orchard in the countryside of France. The subject of this pet-sitting gig is a dog named Noisette, who is helping SharonAnn harvest the hazelnuts.

Who would have thought a few months ago I would be on my knees, in the dirt, in an orchard in the countryside of France helping a new friend harvest the fallen hazelnuts (filberts)? No one who knows me, that's for sure. It's all part of our new "freewheelin'" life.

Au Chien Pelerin means To The Pilgrim Dog and is a B&B in the heart of France on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The Camino is a 500-mile trail people walk for spiritual or personal reasons. Our pet-sitting gig this time is with a dog named Noisette (her name means Hazelnut) and three pygmy goats. While I write, Dan walks the dog several times a day and forages greens for the goats. The county is Gers, in the mid-France region, full of freshly plowed, rolling hills, a castle and a church in each small village on every high point overlooking the surroundings.

Pascale, our host, is a pilgrim, and tells us the story of her walk for peace from France to Jerusalem one morning at breakfast. She and her 81-year-old friend, Janine, stopped over for a couple of days after three weeks of health spa treatments. They invited me to go hazelnut hunting, and I said, "Sure." I discovered a whole new world revolving around hazelnuts.

A 20-minute dash through narrow roads between fields brought us to the Carayon Noisette Farm. Martine and Jacques Carayon welcomed our visit. They were in the process of making hazelnut oil in their workshop. The process was straightforward: Crack the nuts, grind the nuts, heat the nuts, press the nuts, and voilà, the oil comes out. Then filter and bottle it for sale. The flour generated after the press also is packaged and sold.

Only a small percentage of the harvest becomes oil. The Carayons sell the majority of their hazelnuts to Ferrero, owners of the world-famous brand Nutella.

We walked through the well-groomed rows trees - each with a dripping pipe for irrigation hanging from tree to tree. There were thousands of trees. Thirty-five thousand to be exact.

Janine picked up her crate and disappeared yonder. Pascale showed me how to find the nuts. We looked in the dirt, where the machines did not pass, between the trees under the irrigation pipes. Those suckers hid everywhere. Under leaves, in holes, close to the tree where the new runners acted like a net. One can find a few nuts together, bend over and get them, or search for a carpet of them. Often half-buried, needing a nudge to come out of the dirt. When we found many together, we dropped down and crawled to pick them up with both hands.

I didn't realize there was a friendly-fierce competition, but Janine finished filling her crate first. Gosh, she was an expert at finding and getting them. Pascale had a bigger container, and I had a smaller one. As the amateur, I came in last. But after an hour and a half, we were done. It's astonishing how tired you can get crawling around in the dirt in just a short time. We thanked the Crayons and left for home. Over the next few days, we dried the nuts in their shells at every sunny moment. It took two days for my sore muscles to recover.

In researching the qualities of hazelnuts, it seems they help lower blood pressure, reduce plaque, eliminate inflammation, and the oil is beneficial for us inside and outside on our skin. There are so many benefits we've decided to use it in our salad dressing, cooking, and on my face.

We've had cookies made from hazelnut meal and made excellent pizza using the flour in the dough. The pastry experiment was made with 100% hazelnut flour and was a dud. It came out more like a cracker. Ah, well, not all experiments turn out brilliantly. However, here's the pizza dough recipe. Since we're in France, we use the ml and gram weights for dry ingredients.

Hazelnut Pizza Dough

150ml lukewarm water (5oz)

2 ½ tsp active dry yeast

½ tsp sugar

2 Tbsp olive oil

300G plain flour (1.2Cups)

40G hazelnut flour (1/3C)

2 tsp coarse salt

Photo courtesy of SharonAnn Hamilton

The fruits of their labor, the majority of which will be sold to Ferraro, owners of the world-famous brand Nutella.

In a large bowl, stir half the water, yeast, sugar, and let stand until foamy. Add oil, 260g flour, salt, and blend. Knead on a floured surface, incorporating the rest of the flour, including the Hazelnut meal until smooth, about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl, put in your dough and turn to coat the top. Let rise, about an hour, then roll out. Preheat oven to 450°.

Top with your favorite veggies, cooked meats, and cheeses. The recipe makes two 12" pizzas - Cook 12-14 min.

You might wonder where Dan is during this adventure. Watching football via NFL GamePlass and waiting for pizza.

SharonAnn and Dan's adventures can be followed on their blog and Facebook by the same name. SharonAnn & Dan offer 'how-to' coaching services for future global travelers on an individual basis. "The RIGHTsizing Playbook" can be pre-ordered for fourth-quarter delivery. Find out more at [email protected]


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