Terra delle Nocciole
WHO WE ARE
For over three generations, in Cravanzana on the hills of the Alta Langa, our three farms have been cultivating hazelnuts. The fruit that we collect every year, the hazelnut Tonda Dear Trilobata, is a high quality product obtained thanks to the experience in the cultivation handed down from father to son. Its unique geographical position also gives the product properties that make it superior to any other type of foreign or Italian hazelnut. The union of our three farms has generated "Land of Hazelnuts" which deals with the processing only and exclusively of hazelnuts of our production in semi-finished products of high quality for ice cream and pastry. Aware of having a raw material of the highest quality, the objective of "Terra delle Nocciole" is to maintain and increase this quality during all the manufacturing processes, giving a guarantee to the purchasers of the origin of the product.
Our three farms that make up "Terra delle Nocciole" are located in the small village of Cravanzana in the heart of the Alta Langa. Our average production is 70 tonnes of hazelnuts in shell per year, harvested from our own 30 hectares of hazelnut groves.
WHERE WE ARE
Cravanzana, due to its geographical position, is a particularly favourable place for growing hazelnuts. Already in the early 1900s, following studies carried out by agronomist Emanuele Ferrari, the territory of Cravanzana was indicated as ideal for the cultivation of the Nocciolo. Here, in fact, the first trees were planted.
The characteristics of our territory that allow the Nocciolo to reach high quality standards are:
- Altitude. The altitude of the territory of Cravanzana varies between 500 and 600 meters above sea level. The climate at this altitude is almost never subject to hot summers but rather mild during the day and cool at night, allowing the fruit to ripen slowly and gradually instead of forcibly.
- Influence of the "marine". As the crow flies, Cravanzana is just a few kilometres from the sea. This proximity allows the passage of the wind from the sea commonly called by locals "Marino" that carries with it mineral salts that are absorbed by the plant and yielded to the fruit. A mix of minerals that are probably the main reason for obtaining a Supreme Hazelnut.
Cravanzana and its territory are therefore able to donate unique properties to the product, but this unfortunately penalises its production. In fact, as ours is a hilly crop, besides being difficult to cultivate due to the sloping terrain, there is no possibility of using irrigation techniques that would allow greater production (which would also affect its quality). Our average production is in fact about 20-24 quintals per hectare compared to 30-35 quintals in flat areas where irrigation is possible. We gladly accept this limitation in the knowledge that we owe this to the high quality of the product, which is our main objective.
"Ra tera tl'a freghi nen" (The earth does not deceive her), our ancestors said. The meaning of this phrase is that if you donate nothing to the earth, she will never give you anything in return. you can't simply think of sowing and pretending to reap the fruits. You have to give love and passion to the land, you have to take care of it and follow it day after day and in the end it will reward you.
We do just that, based on the teachings of our parents and grandparents.
We carry out the basic operations cyclically every year so that our hazelnuts can give us the best possible product. The operations are different and each has its own importance. they are all fundamental and all must be done within the times dictated by Mother Nature.
The season starts in October immediately after the end of the harvest and lasts throughout the winter. During this period pruning is carried out, which takes place only and exclusively by hand in order to eliminate dry branches, sick branches (affected by Agrilo) and excess branches that suffocate others, preventing the passage of the sun's rays. It is important to remove the diseased branches because the following year they would produce wrinkled hazelnuts and reduce the overall quality of the harvest. We have chosen manual pruning which, although slower and more tiring, allows you to carry out ad hoc pruning on each individual plant (something that cannot be done with pruning performed with automatic machines).
In autumn, the soil is "broken" so that the rains, snow and fertilizers, suitably dosed, can penetrate the soil and thus reach the roots more easily. The tillage of the soil also serves to tear the old roots so that the plant regenerates new ones more capable of absorbing nutrition for the plant and the fruits.
In the spring the main work is the elimination of suckers at the base of the plant. It is important to eliminate them so that the plant concentrates all its resources on the production of the fruit. The suckers are also removed manually. Also in spring, treatments are carried out with plant protection products to eliminate harmful insects such as bugs and balusters.
In June and July, on the other hand, the soil is cleaned to prepare it for the harvesting phase, which takes place in August and September. Harvesting takes place mechanically when the product has fallen from the tree and is on the ground. We do not harvest the product while it is still on the trees because this would cause the development of aflatoxins, harmful to the human organism, which we find in high quantities in the production of Turkish hazelnuts. Since the difference in time between the fall of the first hazelnuts and the last one is about 20 days, we harvest the product of the same field twice in order to avoid that the hazelnuts that fall first remain too long in contact with the ground, risking compromising the drying process and therefore the final quality.
Terra delle Nocciole to preserve the quality of its initial product, works with the best methods and machinery.
The first stage immediately after harvesting is drying. Terra delle Nocciole uses only and exclusively the natural method of doing this by exposing it to the sun. We are convinced that natural and traditional methods, even if slower and more tiring, are the best. For this reason, after harvesting, the hazelnuts are cleaned to remove most of the foreign bodies (residual leaves, twigs, etc. ...) and put to dry for 2-3 days in the sun. Once they have reached the ideal degree of drying, they are cleaned and sorted, ready to be shelled.
Hazelnuts have different sizes and therefore, in order to be able to shell them without damaging the internal fruit, they must be sorted by size. After calibration they are shelled and recalibrated again. The second calibration, which takes place on the shelled product, is fundamental for the subsequent roasting phase. It is very important that the fruit in the toaster is loaded with the same size so that it can be toasted evenly, avoiding burns.
Sorting of graded shelled stock
After sizing, the shelled product is sorted only by hand to remove shell residues, broken and unsuitable fruit.
The product is toasted in special toasting ovens, which bring it to a temperature of 180°C for a variable time depending on the calibre (30-45 minutes). Throughout the roasting cycle, the product is kept in motion by means of rotating suction so as to expose all the fruit uniformly to the roasting lamps.
After roasting, the product is cooled to room temperature. Cooling is by forced air circulation through the product kept in motion. This phase is very important because it must stop cooking and cool the precious oil contained in the hazelnuts, thus avoiding an extension of the roasting phase.
The toasted product is sorted again, always by hand, to eliminate that unsuitable product that is only visible after roasting. There is a percentage of the product which, before roasting, appears healthy but only then takes on a colour that makes it visible so that it can be discarded. This is a stage that not everyone performs but in our opinion it is essential to have a higher quality even if it affects the time dedicated to processing.
Terra delle Nocciole has dedicated particular attention to this phase, looking for a technology different from those currently on the market. To date, most of the hazelnut paste is extracted using ball refiners that work with a cyclic method, which means that a certain amount of product is loaded into the refiner and placed in recirculation for about 30 minutes so that the moving balls hit the product several times and then reducing it to paste.
Terra delle Nocciole has developed an INNOVATIVE MACHINE with a mechanical company, which first of all allows the hazelnut paste to be extracted using a continuous (instead of cyclical) method.
This innovative system allows us not to "stress" the product to preserve its great characteristics (the time that elapses between the loading of the hazelnuts and their transformation into paste is just under 2 minutes).
Continuous extraction also allows us to obtain a temperature difference (∆T) between the incoming and outgoing product not exceeding 15°C. This factor is very important because the oil contained in the hazelnut has already been heated during the roasting stage and heating it again would damage the quality of the finished product. Our system also does not release any type of metal residue in the product, thus avoiding possible allergies to nickel or other metal substances (in ball refiners, over time they wear out and release residues into the product).
Another peculiarity of our pasta that differentiates us from the others is the process of oil separation. A major problem for end users who buy large quantities of pasta and use it gradually throughout the season is the mixing of the laminated oil with the solid part. Leaving the dough stationary in stock, in fact, the solid part tends to decant and the oil remains on the surface. The mixing operation is very difficult, especially in large quantities. Thanks to the innovative type of extraction of our machine we obtain a paste in which, unlike the refined ones, the process of oil separation is much slower. This is a feature that we only learned when we started production. Precise data on layering times could be provided in the future but we noticed that after 2 months the oil layer is only a few millimeters.
During the extraction of the dough we use toasted peeled hazelnuts and toasted hazelnuts with residues of peel in a percentage of about 2-3% in order to give a more intense taste to our dough.
Our Hazelnut boasts the brand PGI Piedmont which, among other things, was also subjected to a sensory analysis carried out by the Brescia Tasters Research Centre, where it was compared with other types of hazelnuts from Lazio and Turkey. This analysis shows that the Piedmont Hazelnut has a more complex sensory profile and is free of defects than the other comparison samples. Moreover, this profile is even more characteristic of derivative products than of the raw material.
But that is not all. It is important to understand how the hazelnut produced by us, even though it is a Piedmont PGI (and therefore already recognised as the best), has clearly superior characteristics compared to the hazelnut cultivated in other areas of Piedmont thanks to our geographical position. By combining a quality raw material with innovative processing methods, Terra delle Nocciole is able to supply a unique product aimed solely and exclusively at "greedy" quality purchasers.