The Nocciola del Piemonte PGI refers to the hazelnut belonging to the Corylus avellana L. species, deriving from the Tonda Gentile Trilobata cultivar, in its shell, shelled, and semi-processed.
The production area of Nocciola del Piemonte PGI is in within numerous municipalities in the provinces of Alessandria, Asti, Cuneo, Turin, Novara, Biella and Vercelli, in the Piedmont region.
The layout of the plantations and cultivation methods are those currently used and involves techniques known as cespuglio (subdivided into shrubs) and, rarely, monocaule (single planting). Harvesting, which today is done by machines, must be carried out between the second half of August and September 1st, when the nuts start to fall naturally from the trees. The nuts are gathered more than once in order to prevent deterioration and to guarantee the quality of the product. The fruits are then put to dry on external tiled floors, with particular attention to protecting them from moisture, or in drying machines in which the conditions of natural drying must be reproduced (continuous drying with tepid air, never above 35°C). The product is then conserved in closed and ventilated areas, where the hazelnuts are placed in moderately thick layers.
Appearance and Flavour
Nocciola del Piemonte PGI is spherical in shape and non-uniform in size. Its shell is of medium thickness, dull brown in colour and with numerous streaks. The seeds vary in shape (sub-spheroidal, tetrahedral and, at times, ovoid), with a compact and crunchy consistency that has a delicate and long-lasting flavour. Once roasted the hazelnut can be easily shelled.
Professor Emanuele Ferraris was responsible for introducing and popularising hazelnut cultivation in the Alta Langa area, demonstrating that the hazelnut tree was much more resistant and long-lasting than originally thought. The history of hazelnut cultivation in the area where Nocciola del Piemonte PGI is produced is parallel with the evolution of the confectionary industry and with the discovery of Gianduja chocolate. It began during the period of Napoleon’s economic blockade on products originating from British industry, including the colonies, when a leading a group of confectioners from Turin began to mix cacao with the more economic Nocciola Tonda Gentile Trilobata. Later, in 1852, the chocolatier Michele Prochet, in business with Caffarel, improved the paste by roasting the hazelnuts and mixing them together.
Nocciola del Piemonte PGI should be kept in a cool, well-ventilated place. The nut can be eaten as soon as it is picked. The product is mainly used by the confectionary industry in the preparation of creams, cakes and ice-cream, and is an important and essential ingredient for typical Piedmont confectionary products, such as Gianduiotto chocolate and nougat, in which the characteristics of the hazelnuts are best expressed. It is also used chopped for decorative purposes, as well as in numerous savoury dishes.
The product is marketed as Nocciola del Piemonte PGI. It is sold in its shell in fabric bags suitable for all markets or occasionally loose; shelled, either processed or semi-processed, in packets suitable for culinary use, sold pre-packaged or packed. The nuts are also available as semi-processed products such as Granella, Farina and Nocciole del Piemonte PGI paste, as well as being the main ingredient in numerous processed products such as paste, cream, gianduja chocolate, nocciolato and white nocciolato, cremino, nougat and many other confectionary products that use Nocciola del Piemonte PGI.
Nocciola del Piemonte PGI is considered to be the best hazelnut for industrial use and is best coupled with chocolate.