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.
Chinese chestnuts, such as we grow, are not only sweeter;
they are comparatively easier to peel than most European varieties. Here is the best way in our experience: boil
them in water for a few minutes, remove a few at a time, chop in half with a
heavy knife and peel with your fingers.
Sometimes the half-kernal will just pop out if you give it a little
squeeze. TIP: Fresh out of hot water
they peel easiest. Below
is a picture of piercing the chestnut skin. A chestnut knife makes it
easy, but a small, serrated paring knife works well.
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 tow 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 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!!
Piercing the chestnut skin. Draw the knife across the fat part of the nut. Way better than the X method.