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About Sweet Chestnuts

Chestnuts (Castanea sp.) have been used and enjoyed worldwide for several thousand years.

In Europe, chestnuts are consumed in a wide variety of dishes, from soups, stews, and stuffing to fancy deserts.

Chestnut flour is the secret to many of the fancy French pastries. In other parts of the world, such as China, chestnut is a staple food in their diet.

Chestnuts have about half the calories of other nuts and the lowest fat content of all the main edible nuts.

This would be 4–5 percent fat in chestnut, as compared to hazelnut’s 62 percent and pecan’s 71 percent. In composition and food value, the chestnut, is more akin to cereal grains, such as wheat, with its high complex carbohydrate content of about seventy-eight percent. Other nuts have a low carbohydrate content.

Since chestnuts are starchy rather than oily, they are readily digestible when roasted or boiled.

Chestnut Storage Instructions

Chestnuts high moisture and starch content, makes them a perishable food. They must be kept refrigerated and not allowed to dry out.

At 32 degrees F., chestnuts will store for many months. For best results, keep fresh chestnuts refrigerated in a re-sealable plastic bag.

Punch a few holes in the bag, allowing the nuts to ‘breathe’. Place the bag in your refrigerator drawer, flipping it over occasionally.

Chestnuts may last 4-6 months this way. Acceptable mold, that may happen, will look like black spots on the brown shell.

The mold can be rinsed or wiped off, as long as the inner nut kernel remains fresh and yellow.

The taste of raw fresh uncooked chestnuts, without the outer soft shell and inner pellicle (a paper thin covering right next to the yellow kernel, should have the consistency of an uncooked carrot or potato.

When cooked, the kernel will soften. If the chestnut is undercooked, the outside of the chestnut will be soft and the inside will be hard. If overcooked, the chestnut will dry out and harden.

Chestnut Fresh Cooking Instructions

CAUTION: Before using ANY cooking method, with a sharp knife, FIRST score the chestnuts. Make a long penetrating line, slicing across their fat middle. The cut MUST go through their shell and pellicle to allow proper cooking. Otherwise, cooking un-scored chestnuts will burst and splatter all over, possibly causing injury.

Open Fire Roasting is putting fresh scored whole chestnuts over an open fire, like a campfire, or a grill. Depending on the heat source (electric, gas or coals), chestnuts should be roasted in about 15-20 minutes. The nuts will cook more evenly if they are in constant motion, either by shaking the pan, or wearing an old thick glove, and hand stirring them constantly, till roasted.

Microwave Roasting Cut 4-5 chestnuts across their fat middle, through both the outer soft dark brown shell and the paper-thin lighter brown pellicle. Next, wrap them in a damp paper towel, and microwave on high for 45-50 seconds (experiment with time and temperature on your microwave for best results). They will be very hot and moist when done. Use caution with first bite.

Boiling is an easy method of cooking chestnuts. First, cut them in half with a sharp knife, or score them. Boil for 10-15 minutes. As the opening enlarges, on the scored type, or ‘smiles yellow’ at you, they are ready to be removed from the water. It’s best to take out one or two nuts at a time, and peel them out of their shell and inner pellicle. If they start to cool too much, peeling will be more difficult. The longer nuts are cooked, the more they will crumble more upon removal from their shell.

Steaming is also another satisfactory method to cook chestnuts. Score them, or cut in half, and initially steam them for 10–15 minutes, adjusting cooking time to your eating preference. Carefully, remove them, as in the boiling instructions above, and use as intended.

Served with a glass of wine, or drink of your choice, this combination with chestnut makes a wonderful appetizer. As with all above methods of cooking chestnuts, the cooked kernels may be added to other recipes. Look for delicious chestnut recipes in various ethnic cookbooks, and also on our website. Try looking in Southern European or Asian cookbooks. Whatever way you prepare your chestnuts, enjoy them! Bon Appétit