Botanically speaking, not all nuts are created equal. Most of the "nuts" that we eat from our friendly neighborhood trees are in actually Drupes. A drupe being the single edible "seed" extracted from a "pit" (endocarp) that was surrounded by, possibly edible, flesh (mesocarp) that was protected by a skin (exocarp). Example the Seed of the apricot is edible, once you eat the fruit, crack open the pit and you will find an edible seed, with a taste similar to an almond. This is because Almonds are in the same "Stone Fruit" Family as Peaches, Apricots, Cherries and Prunes. Walnuts, Cashews, Pecans and Coconuts fall into this category as well. Though I do not recommend eating the green fruit of the walnut and you would be pretty hard pressed to gnaw through the fibrous fruit of the coconut. The illustrious Olive, Cacao and Coffee are also drupes as are a lot of "berries" in the bramble family... each Raspberry, Salmon Berry, and Blackberry is a cluster of druplets. <--Seriously, I am not makin this stuff up ;)
Then there are the legumes such as Peanuts which exhibit odd behavior. After pollination, the fruit at the end of the stalk actually bends over and buries the ripening fruit several inches under the ground to ripen. And finally, seeds, like the Brazil Nut, with several "seeds" inside a large Coconut looking fruit, and the Pine nut; both Stone pine and Pinyon.
While true nuts such as Hazelnuts, Macadamia, Chestnuts, Beech Nuts, Acorns and Birch Nuts consist simply of the hard shell with no surrounding fruit or outer skin. Or rather, the shell is the skin.
Be that as it may, for culinary uses they are all simply referred to as "nuts". After all the slogan "Sometimes you feel like a Drupe... Sometimes you don't!" just doesn't have quite the same catchy ring to it, does it?
1/4 cup plus 2 TB Granulated Sugar
2 TB Light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Buttermilk
3/8 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Cinnamon
Pinch of Mace
1 1/2 TB butter
1 Cup Toasted Walnut Halves or other favorite Drupe, Nut, Legume or Seed
If your walnuts are raw, toast them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes
Line your counter with waxed paper.
In medium heavy saucepan, cook Sugars, Buttermilk, Cinnamon, Mace and Baking Soda over medium heat....
till the syrup reaches Firm Ball stage (243-250 degrees); stirring constantly to prevent scorching of the buttermilk.
When the mix has reached the proper temp, remove from heat, and mix the butter into the syrup. (This is important, the added fat will prevent premature crystallization of the sugar)
Add Walnuts and stir to coat.
Pour Walnuts onto Wax Paper Lined counter and separate the nuts as quickly as possible.
Let cool completely before attempting to eat.... Trust me, they are extremely hot!!
What to do with Praline Walnuts, besides sitting in a corner and eating them all, one by one?
I like to make, what I call, Mediterranean Salad. I delicious combination of peppery Arugula, Crispy Pear, Pungent Blue Cheese, and Crunchy Praline Walnuts all drizzled with a Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette.
Lemon Honey Vinaigrette is surprisingly simple
2 TB Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp orange Blossom Honey
1/3 cup Kalamata Olive oil or Walnut oil
You are going to need a jar or bottle that you can shake...
Place the salt in the jar/bottle, then the lemon juice and swirl them around so the salt dissolves before placing the remaining ingredients in the jar/bottle.
Shake the dickens out of it.
Top with slices of d'Anjou or Comice pear (ususally about 1/2 pear per person)
Crumble blue cheese over the top, and dot with praline walnuts.
Drizzle with Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette
You can certainly hit it with a little ground pepper too, if you like....