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Pounds of Chestnuts


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  • 10 months later...

Hurricane Frances took the top out of our chestnut tree. :sad: I saved the burrs and spread them on newspapers, and they all opened at once. Usually they fall a few at a time, and I can keep up, but now I have about ten pounds of fresh chestnuts to use before they go bad. I've already dried enough to keep me in soup all winter, and I made preserves with pears. This is on top of eating piles of roasted ones. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Also, does anyone have a trick for peeling the little buggers? I'm hoping there's a magic solution that will allow me to peel them cool instead of hot.

Thanks - Linda

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Would love to hear of an easier way to peel... if it exists...

Not a really practical suggestion, but If you happen to be hosting a dinner party soon you could make Mont Blanc for dessert. Spectacular, delicous and it uses up a fair number of chestnuts.

The pear chestnut preserves sound very good.

I've seen people ask for recipes for making their own marron glacees (which would be a nice way to preserve more) but can't recall if I've seen good responses.

Also, can't recall where I've seen this recipe, but I thought I've seen something somewhere for some type of preserved, pureed chestnut flavored with vanilla and rum...

I hope you're tree is not too damaged and I'm interested to see what other ideas people come up with. :smile:

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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2 words - Chestnut Stuffing.

Made this a few Thanksgivings ago and it was the best stuffing I ever had.

Try scoring the nuts with a sharp knife before heating them by whatever method to speed your warm peeling.

Freeze 'em.

I have bought frozen chestnuts and they are great - pack them in one of those thick 2 ply Ziplock freezer bags with the clinging inside and push out all the air or even better if you have a vacuum packer - either way they will last a long long time.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Please excuse the self-reference, but here are some ideas I posted on another board a few years ago:

I love chestnuts just about any way I can get 'em: boiled with red wine and bay leaves (see below); braised with herbs; ditto and puréed to serve alongside poultry and game or as the basis for a rich soup; in a ragout with fennel, pearl onions and walnuts; boiled, puréed and sweetened for incorporating in cakes, soufflés and chocolate mousses; braised with duck; braised with red cabbage; in stuffings for goose and turkey; and so on.

The only downside is that they're a royal pain to peel. First you slit the shells. Then, after pre-cooking, you remove the shells and peel the skin--an arduous process requiring strong fingernails and quicks of steel (once, after peeling a particularly big batch I couldn't type for two or three days). The pre-cooking method can make a big difference in peeling; while most cookbooks suggest boiling them 8 minutes or baking them in water for 5 minutes, the best way I've found is to deep-fry them 2-3 minutes. The important thing is to work with small batches because they must be peeled while hot.

While the slitting is easy enough to do with a very sharp knife, a few years ago I picked up a nifty gadget at Quincaillerie Dante, on Dante St. a block or two southwest of Jean-Talon Market: it's a bit like a pair of pliers except the buisness end has a cup to hold the chestnut on one arm and a serrated blade on the other. Made from red plastic, it cost all of $5.

Here's my favourite way to make them. An advantage of this prep is that each diner peels his own. The recipe is adapted from one in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and is perfect for the kind of cold and snowy weather we've been "enjoying" of late.

Chestnuts Boiled in Red Wine, Romagna Style

Three or four servings

1 pound fresh chestnuts

1 cup rough, young, dry red wine*

Salt

2 whole dried bay leaves or 3 fresh bay leaves (the latter can be had from Chez Louis)

Wash the nuts in cold water and soak 20 minutes to soften the shells. Slit the shells by making a horizontal cut completely across the middle of the domed side. Take care to slit only the shell, not the meat (or your fingers).

Put the nuts in a pot with the wine, a pinch of salt, the bay leaves and just enough water to cover. Cover and boil over medium heat until the nuts are tender, usually 30 minutes to 1 hour. Uncover the pot and allow the liquid to boil away until only a couple of tablespoons' worth is left.

Pour into a big bowl or serve directly from the pot along with more of wine used in cooking.

*Hazan recommends a Chianti. I usually opt for a less expensive red from Tuscany or the environs: at $12.75 Umani Ronchi's bottom-drawer Rosso Conero is a good buy (and their $16.20 San Lorenzo is more than $3.45 better). Have also enjoyed it with the $14 Marcillac "Le Sang del Païs", a rustic Massif central red made from the obscure fer servadou grape.

Peeling is the biggest hassle. I wonder how manufacturers of vacuum-packed, glazed and puréed chestnuts do it. Anyhoo, once peeled, you might cook, purée and can or freeze them for later use. Or maybe you could vacuum-pack whole nuts like the French packages that can be bought in gourmet stores for an arm and a leg.

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Mont Blanc. Wow. Having just cooked, peeled, and food-milled three pounds of chestnuts for the preserves, I don't know that I'm up to the task right now :blink: . But what a great suggestion. I love impractical food!

I've tried making marrons glacees, but the nuts always break into pieces. Not that this makes them taste worse, but the presentation is not as pretty. If someone knows how to keep them whole, I'd do it again.

I did not know they were good after being frozen, so I may just put some in the freezer and save the Mont Blanc idea for a holiday dinner. Same goes for the stuffing. I've never made any, but I was eyeing the wild rice in the kitchen and thinking that these two would match well. Seasons in Florida give us "fall" foods when it is still pretty hot out, so I'm grateful for the freezing suggestion. I'm assuming that they can be thawed and then still roasted?

The tree looks like it will live, although it may be a few years before it doesn't look lopsided, so I will have more chestnuts next year :smile: .

Edited for clarity....

Edited by lperry (log)
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By the time I replied, more posts were up. Thank you!

I would love to make my own chestnut flour, but the dried ones are so hard that I'm afraid to use any of my kitchen equipment on them. How do you make yours?

The chestnuts in wine sound great. I know there's a long history of chestnut use in Europe as well as Asia. I have been hoping for some ideas for traditional savory dishes. I always end up preserving them with sugar.

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I'm very excited about this thread as the winery has a 120-year-old chestnut tree that will start dropping its fruit in the next few weeks. I never got around to doing anything with it last year, but am looking forward to a bountiful harvest this year!

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First get a chestnut knife, makes cutting much easier.

I steam them and using the "keep warm" button on my rice cooker I take out just a few at a time, shell and peel them and go on to the next little batch.

I freeze them.

Marrons glacée - to keep them from falling aparty you steam them first, see above.

Then they have to be cooked gently, very gently in the syrup, this works best in a crockpot or slow cooker and you do it in steps.

The point is to heat the chestnuts in the syrup very gently for 3-4 hours, in the crockpot you don't have to stir them so they don't break up.

Then you turn it off and allow them to cool completely.

Then another session with the heating, same amount of time.

Another cooling period.

Another heating period.

The reason for this is that the heat drives out the normal moisture in the chestnut when it cools the syrup flows into the nut to take the place of the moisture that was fourced out by the heat.

The next session carries this a bit further -- and so on.

When the entire nut appears sort of translucent, they are done.

The simplest way to test is to eat one after they are cooled.

This same routine works with whole fruits (tiny fruits only) such as kumquats, clementines and the little seckle pears and crabapples - you can even do these last two with their skins on but all of these should be pricked all over with a fine needle. This speeds up the process considerably.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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By the time I replied, more posts were up.  Thank you!

I would love to make my own chestnut flour, but the dried ones are so hard that I'm afraid to use any of my kitchen equipment on them.  How do you make yours?

The chestnuts in wine sound great.  I know there's a long history of chestnut use in Europe as well as Asia.  I have been hoping for some ideas for traditional savory dishes.  I always end up preserving them with sugar.

A friend of mine has three chestnut trees and uses a grain mill to grind the dried chestnuts. I'm lucky that he gives me all the chestnut flour I need. Good thing the flour keeps beautifully.

They ARE hard as stones! I haven't tried to grind them in my appliances, either. :wink:

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Also, can't recall where I've seen this recipe, but I thought I've seen something somewhere for some type of preserved, pureed chestnut flavored with vanilla and rum...

I just came across a recipe for something like this in a book by Hillaire Walden, and determined to put some up for future holiday gift-giving. I can dig out and paraphrase the recipe for you if you're interested.

And I'm in the cut-an-X-in-the-skin-before-roasting/steaming/boiling camp. They'll peel like a dream.

Edit for to better make sensing. :wacko:

Edited by GG Mora (log)
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I just came across a recipe for something like this in a book by Hillaire Walden, and determined to put some up for future holiday gift-giving. I can dig out and paraphrase the recipe for you if you're interested.

Thank you, I, for one, would really love to see this.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I would say that all chestnuts should be slit/have a a cross cut before cooking, but most particularly roast chestnuts, otherwise they are likely to explode!

The Portuguese boil chestnuts with fennel - the only thing that fennel is used for and they roast them with lots of rock salt.

On 11th November, St Martin's Day, schools around the country roast chestnuts over a fire in the old-fashioned way and kids come home from school all sooty, full of chestnuts and with extra ones in a card bag they have made at school.

Adults accompany the chestnuts with new wine (or old wine, or "jeropiga" etc etc). My birthday :smile: - a very nicely chosen date!

Whole unpeeled chestnuts can also be frozen successfully, if you don't have time to prepare them and don't want the beasties to get to them before you do. Or if you want good roast chestnuts later on in the season.

North Portugal is real chestnut country. The early ones are ripening now, but the extra good ones on my "farm" weren't quite ripe when I checked them last Sunday - have to go there again in the next few days.

Chloe

North Portugal

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And I'm in the cut-an-X-in-the-skin-before-roasting/steaming/boiling camp. They'll peel like a dream.

well usually I cut a small cross into the top of the chestnut before roasting

this makes peeling them a whole lot easier.

Just to make sure we're on the same wavelength here, whether it's a cross or a slit, the cut goes through the shell, right? And, yes, once heated, the shell is easy to remove. But what's a royal pain in the butt (not to mention under the thumbnails) to peel is the thin brown inner skin that clings tightly to the nut meat. Unless you guys are doing something I'm not, cutting the shell doesn't make that any easier to remove.

But, hey! Looking over the Larousse Gastro's chestnut entry for the first time, I read:

Some authorities recommend that chestnuts should be shelled when they are raw,and then boiled in slightly salted water for about 20 minutes. The inner skin can then be easily removed.

Anyone tried this technique?

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Thank you to everyone for your ideas. I look forward to many chestnut-filled meals.

The peeling problem I was having was with that inner skin. I always make an X in the shell and try to pierce the inner skin so it will peel back with the shell, but it tends to cling, and having to peel them hot (and lots at a time) has never been my favorite task. I've tried the boiling water technique with ones that had really sticky inner skins after I had already roasted and peeled off the outer shell. It does work on cooked ones, but you still have to get everything peeled off while they are hot. A friend who works in a restaurant tells me that I need to develop asbestos fingers. Maybe the problem is not with the chestnuts - it may be operator error :blink: .

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I'm afraid there not much you can do about the inner skin as i think this is down to the type of chestnut you have.

The chestnuts I have had in the far east simply crack open and don't have the clinging inner skin. :smile:

The chestnut I have had in UK do have the clinging innner skin :hmmm:

and submerging them in hot water seems like the only way to remove the inner skin.

Personally i think the ones with clinging inner skins might not be ripe chestnut?

A friend who works in a restaurant tells me that I need to develop asbestos fingers. Maybe the problem is not with the chestnuts - it may be operator error

alternatively maybe wear some latex gloves?

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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Also, can't recall where I've seen this recipe, but I thought I've seen something somewhere for some type of preserved, pureed chestnut flavored with vanilla and rum...

I just came across a recipe for something like this in a book by Hillaire Walden, and determined to put some up for future holiday gift-giving. I can dig out and paraphrase the recipe for you if you're interested.

Thank you, I, for one, would really love to see this.

Chestnut Jam with Vanilla and Rum

± 2 3/4 LBS unpeeled chestnuts

1 vanilla bean

3 C light brown sugar

2 TBSP dark rum

Peel the chestnuts however you see fit.

Put peeled chestnuts and vanilla bean in large sauce pan and just cover with water. Cover pan and bring to a boil; simmer until chestnuts are tender (about 30 min.). Remove and set aside vanilla bean. Drain chestnuts, reserving cooking liquid. Purée chestnuts.

Put purée, sugar, and 7 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid in heavy pan. Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add seeds and bean to pan. Heat mixture gently, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, then raise heat and boil until mixture is thick. Remove and discard vanilla bean; stir in rum.

Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, seal, and process in water bath.

Edited by GG Mora (log)
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Regarding peeling the chestnuts.

That chestnut knife, in addition to being ideal for cutting the X in the chestnuts prior to cooking, is also very handy for removing the shell and the skin. The little curved point gets into the crevices where the skin clings, and drags it right out.

I have one of these, a Lamson.

And one of thesewith no name.

I wear a latex glove inside one of the exfoliating gloves which I mentioned several weeks back that I use for removing the skins on dry roasted hazel nuts.

They have enough texture to make it easier to hold onto the sometimes slippery chestnuts and the latex keeps my fingers from scalding.

Williams-Sonoma also has chestnut knives as does Sur La Table and others.

Once you get used to using one you will find it is very handy.

One of the guys on the Chile-Heads list mentioned a few years back that he found a chestnut knife perfect for sliting the small peppers he was going to stuff to make "poppers" --

He could make a slit in the side of the pepper, extract the seed and membrane without cutting all the way through the pepper.

He said he came across it while poking around in W-S while his wife was buying some fancy linens. I recall that he said it was the only thing he had ever purchased at W-S.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thank you very much for the chestnut-vanilla-rum preserves GG Mora; they sound fantastic--and very good for gift giving!

Must also try andiesenji's recipe for marrons glace!

I definately have this thread bookmarked. Thanks for starting this thread lperry... and welcome too by the way. :smile:

Here's another chestnut recipe from Rick Rodger's Kaffehaus (egull-Amazon link; $$ for egull if you order thru the link).

They are a type of chestnut truffle and are called "chestnut potatoes" in Austria; Czech Republic, Hungary, etc. Pretty easy to make... after you peel the chestnuts! :smile:

12 oz fresh chestnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brandy

1 oz unsweetend chocolate; grated on large holes of grater

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Use boiling method ( ~ 10 min) to peel chestnuts. Chop into pieces; you should have ~ 1 3/4 cups.

Bring sugar and brandy to a boil over med. heat in small saucepan; (watch out for flames!) then reduce to a simmer. Add chestnuts, cover and cook for ~ 10-15 min on med-low heat until nuts are tender. Add a little water if needed to prevent them from drying out.

Puree until very smooth in food processor with chocolate, vanilla and nutmeg.

When cool enough to handle, form into 1 inch balls or "potatoes". Roll in cocoa to cover. These need to 'ripen' for at least 3 days and for up to 1 week. Store at cool room temp, sealed airtight.

These are basically pretty similar in flavor profile to a Mont Blanc; easier to make ahead though! I think these would be excellent with an after dinner coffee.

As an aside to my earlier post re: Mont Blanc; in Austria it is called "Kastanienreis" or "chestnut rice)....

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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  • 1 year later...

My wife and I are midwestern transplants and have recently discovered the joy (and pain) of chestnuts.

They are starting to show up at Farmers' Markets this year. What else can we do with them?

Anyone got a good gelato?

PS. I guess they are quite good for you. Lots of important trace minerals and one of the few nuts that is actually low in fat.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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