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How to Prepare and Roast Chestnuts

Updated on May 10, 2017
Chestnut Tree
Chestnut Tree | Source
Ripe Chestnuts
Ripe Chestnuts | Source
Chestnuts with the shell off
Chestnuts with the shell off | Source

What are Chestnuts?

In the fall months, you'll start finding chestnuts at the grocery stores and produce markets. They are a specialty treat usually eaten around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The chestnuts do need to be roasted to get off the outer shell. If you are fortunate, you may be able to find these in the woods in your area.

At one time, the forest of the US were covered with chestnut trees. In the early 1900s a blight was brought over from China and has since ruined most of the wild trees. The northwestern states are the only place where you'll still see them growing wild in the US. For some reason the blight has never reached there.

I can remember seeing these as a kid in the woods, but I didn't know what the trees were. Now as an adult, I don't see them here in Michigan anymore. I don't wander the woods like I once did, but I imagine the blight has destroyed all of them.

Chestnuts that grow anywhere else in this country are new hybrid trees that have been specially bred to resist the blight. One chestnut tree can produce as many as 250 pounds or more of chestnuts each year. The hardwood from a chestnut is a high quality wood, so the blight created the loss of an important natural resource.

Harvesting Chestnuts

If you have your own chestnut tree or are lucky enough to live in a state where the wild American chestnut trees can be found, it is easy to harvest the nuts. During the summer, the nuts are covered by burrs, but these split open and the nuts then fall to the ground in the fall.

You need to hurry and pick these up right after they fall from the tree. If not they will become moldy or wormy. The squirrels or rodents like to get them too.

Purchasing Chestnuts

Look for nuts that are all about the same size, so when you roast them they roast evenly. Don't buy chestnuts that have had misters over them at the store, since a wet environment promotes molds. Check that the shells are a shiny brown.

If you can press the shell and it doesn't leave an indentation, this is a sign of freshness. These are good chestnuts to purchase.

How to Roast Chestnuts

Chestnuts need to be roasted or boiled to remove the shell. It is an easy process. First be sure to run them under cold water to wash them and then allow them to dry.

After roasting, if the meat of the nut has a vinegary smell, is slimy or has a blue streak through it, don't eat the nut. It means that it is not fresh. Throw it out.

Method 1: To roast the chestnuts, just place them in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Then you will be able to peel them.

Method 2: To shell by boiling, first use a sharp knife and cut a crisscross cut across the flat side of the shell. Simmer about 15 minutes or until they are soft. Once you remove the nuts from the water you can remove the skin. It helps to just remove one nut at a time. Remove the skins with a sharp knife.

Method 3: You can roast the chestnuts over an open fire, just like the old song. This can become a memorable family tradition. You will need a special pan with a lid with holes in the bottom. These can be purchased or you can make one yourself. Be sure to use a pan with a long handle. A skillet works best and you need to poke several holes in the bottom to release steam. These holes need to be about 3/16" in diameter.

Use chestnuts that are all about the same size and after cleaning under the faucet, cut a crosswise x across each nut making sure that it goes all of the way through the skin. This will prevent it from exploding.

Place them in the pan and let roast over the open fire for about 15 to 25 minutes or until the nuts are soft. The shells will start to open when they are ready.

Now you just need to peel open the chestnuts when they've cooled enough to touch them. Eat them warm either plain or salted.

Using Chestnuts

Chestnuts are a little different from other nuts. They have little fat content, but are high in starch. Eat them freshly roasted with a little salt. They can be prepared like a vegetable or can be added to soups and sauces and are delicious in stuffing. A main dish can also be made from them. The chestnuts can also be added to desserts and pastry.

Have You Tried Chestnuts?

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    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 6 years ago from USA

      Donna Cosmato and Injured Lamb, Thanks for visiting the hub.

    • Injured lamb profile image

      Injured lamb 6 years ago

      Love chestnut much but never have the chance to see the chestnut trees...thanks for the sharing of chestnut, it's interesting.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      Great information! I've heard the song but never known anyone who actually did the roasting. Very interesting!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 6 years ago from USA

      acc12, Thanks for your comments. I remember seeing chestnuts growing wild in the woods, but didn't know what they were. The hub seems to be bringing up a lot of childhood memories. For one reason or another it wasn't one of our family traditions.

      My husband remembers throwing bag of water down on people when he lived in an upstairs apartment. Kids can be something else, can't they!

    • acc12 profile image

      acc12 6 years ago

      Great hub about chestnuts! As a kid, my siblings & I would gather chestnuts that fell into the ivy front lawn of my grandma's apartment. We'd fill paper bags with them. Once my dad caught my brother & I throwing them out the attic window at people walking by! Oh, the ways kids find to amuse themselves. Thanks for sparking memories. Voted up.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 6 years ago from USA

      Nell, Thanks for commenting. I hope you will be able to get the chestnuts and start a new tradition.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, I have always wanted to roast chestnuts, but I had no idea how to do it, or what to watch out for, this is so useful, thanks! cheers nell