Chinese chestnuts, such as we grow, are not only sweeter;
they are comparatively easier to peel than most European varieties. There is the fast way---score across the middle, boil
them in water for a few minutes, remove a few at a time, and peel with your fingers.
Sometimes the kernel will just pop out if you give it a little
squeeze. For more intense flavor, see the roasting instructions. TIP: Fresh out of hot water
they peel easiest.
is a picture of piercing the chestnut skin. Our "perfect" chestnut knife makes it
easy, but a small, serrated paring knife works well too.
To roast fresh chestnuts, cut a shallow slice through
the skin, place in a covered pan and bake in a HOT oven at 375 until the nuts are
tender. Time in the oven is 15 minutes,
more or less, depending on moisture content (freshness) and size of the
chestnut. You can also roast chestnuts
on the stove top on medium heat in a heavy pan, on a barbecue grill, microwave them
(30 seconds or so for one or two nuts), or use an old-fashioned popcorn popper in the fireplace.
TIP: roasted chestnuts peel easier when still hot, fresh out of the oven. And remember they can blow up, like popcorn,
so to avoid too much fun and excitement, don't forget to pierce the skin.
The picture below shows a chestnut roasted for about 15 seconds in the microwave.
What about the X?
Many, actually most, recipe books, internet advice and old fashioned habits tell you to mark an X
in the back of the chestnut before roasting. We've found that the
slice across the top makes peeling much easier. The nuts practically
fall out without having to actually peel off the shell. But remember
to peel while hot!! The perfect chestnut knife
After scoring thousands of chestnuts, we found that a short serrated knife is the safest and easiest to use. Williams Sonoma makes a chestnut knife, but it tends to cut too deeply into the nut meat. Charlie decide to make one of our own from an old steak knife. He broke it off to a short inch or so, then filed the rough edges. We finally thought "why keep this great idea to ourselves?" So, we offer you the option. Buy one already made, or take the idea and try it yourself. It will make your chestnut scoring life much brighter.
Storing Fresh Chestnuts
Chestnuts fall only in September
and October. They are perishable, and
must be refrigerated to delay spoilage, principally from molding. If allowed to dry, the chestnut kernel, being
a living seed, will soon die and lose its natural enzyme protections against
mold. (On the other hand, with a little
drying their starch converts to natural sugars, which enhance the chestnut
flavor.) Fresh chestnuts are ideally stored
at temperatures of 32F at high humidity in mesh or other breathable bags. If stored in unvented plastic bags, the nuts
will transpire and the trapped moisture will hasten molding. Chestnuts can be frozen once they are peeled.
Thawed chestnuts are fine for recipes requiring purees and confections,
and OK for soups, stews etc.