When you buy a freshly harvested bag of Virginia Chestnuts, your first question might be how to prepare them. Assuming you’ve heard the popular Christmas carol, you know they can be roasted over an open fire. What you may not know is that chestnuts can be prepared in many ways. Whether you’re a chestnut beginner or a seasoned vet, read on for some tasty tips to help you get the most out of this delicious holiday treat.
One fun and simple way to prepare your chestnuts is to boil them. Put a lidded pot of water on the stove to boil. Add a spoon of salt to the water to speed the boiling process and add a bit of extra flavor. While your water heats, place your chestnuts flat side down on a cutting board. Use a small, sharp knife to score an x into the top of the chestnut shells. Now place your scored chestnuts in the lidded pot and boil for 30 to 40 minutes. You’ll know the chestnuts are ready to eat when the shells begin to pull back from the nuts along the line of the scored x. Now drain the chestnuts and peel the shells and inner skins away from the golden-brown kernel. Eat the nuts plain, salted, or drizzle on some melted butter, along with rosemary or cinnamon to taste.
OVEN ROASTING CHESTNUTS
Another delicious way to enjoy your chestnuts is to oven roast them. As with the boiled nuts, you will first score an x into the rounded top of the shell. This step is extremely important when roasting chestnuts, as the chestnuts can burst if not scored. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place your nuts round side up in a baking pan. Put your pan of chestnuts into the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. When the chestnuts are done, the shells will begin to peel back from the kernel at the center. They are much easier to peel while still warm, so go ahead and peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. While your chestnuts will taste great plain, you can add butter and salt to the nuts, or add cinnamon or rosemary for a festive taste.
HOW ABOUT THAT OPEN FIRE?
If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to cook your chestnuts over a fire. This will work over an outdoor fire, or even in a fireplace. While there are special chestnut roasting pans, don’t worry if you don’t have one; a popcorn roasting pan will work just as well. If you don’t have a popcorn roaster, try a cast-iron skillet. Score your chestnuts on the rounded top of the shell and place them in a single layer at the bottom of your roasting pan. Place your pan over coals or embers- not directly over the flame. Softly shake or stir your pan as needed while holding over the fire. The nuts should be getting done after about 20 to 25 minutes depending on the temperature of your fire. When they are done, the shells will begin to peel back from the scored tops. You may also hear the nuts begin to pop. Take the shells out of your pan, peel, and enjoy with some festive herbs and spices.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Know another way to cook chestnuts or have a tip you’d like to share? Let us know about your chestnut traditions in the comment section below.