Pine nuts are the seeds of pine trees, and although all are edible, only in about 20 of the 200-plus species is the yield worth the effort of harvest. They have been known and enjoyed by humans for millennia, but only relatively recently in historical terms have they appeared in the cookery books of the developed world. As an interesting aside, many early references to ‘pine-apples’ actually refer to pine-nuts – the word ‘apple’ being used as a generic word for ‘fruit.’ Such are the traps for the unwary food historian!
I found some interesting ideas for using pine-nuts in a couple of late nineteenth century vegetarian cookery books.
Sandwiches, with Dates.
Wash Fard dates and let them stand till somewhat softened; remove the stones and any bits of the skin that will come off. Have ready the slices of bread spread with almond nut butter. Over this sprinkle freely crushed pine nuts (pegnolias), lay the dates on face down and cover with buttered slices.
A practical cook and text book for general use. The fat of the land and how to live on it
(1896) by Ellen Goodell Smith.
And the following two ideas are from Guide for nut cookery together with a brief history of nuts and their food values, by Almeida Lambert, (Battle Creek, Michigan, 1899)
Pine-Nut Nutora No. 2.
Take 1 cup of roasted pine-nut butter, 1 cup of raw peanut butter, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of cornstarch, or white flour. Dissolve the starch in a little of the water, pour it on the butter, and as soon as it is worked in, add the rest of the water, a little at a time, until all is smooth; add the salt, beat for a few minutes, and put into cans; this can be cooked in common baking-powder cans, but it will keep only a few days. If cooked in sealed cans for five hours, it will keep for any length of time before it is opened; after opening, it will spoil in a few days, unless kept very cold. This is a very good substitute for meat; the roasted pine-nuts give it a meaty flavor.
Bouillon No. 2.
Take some pine-nuts, wash and salt slightly, about 1 teaspoonful to 1 cup of nuts, putting the nuts in a pie-tin, and sprinkling the salt over them. Place in the oven and toast to a medium brown, but do not burn them; pour into a plate or pie-tin, and mash with a cup or tumbler, rolling them as with a rolling-pin. They are very tender, and can be crushed between the fingers. Take one tablespoonful of the crushed pine-nuts to one pint of water, and cook for one hour, simmering gently. Salt to taste and strain through a fine sieve. Serve hot in hot cups.