2013 looks like it is going to be a bumper year for sweet chestnuts, which generally benefit from a hard frost the year before and with the winds this week there are loads of the spiky cased nuts on the ground ready to be picked up. They are best picked up soon after falling and while the case is still green. Any white / unripe nuts soon ripen when they are brought inside. Damp chestnuts go mouldy quickly and will have a slightly musty taste. Sweet Chestnut Trees grow all over the UK and are regularly found in old deciduous woodland and mixed woods. You can see pictures of what you are looking for under chestnut or sweet chestnut on wikipedia.
Once you have the chestnuts, it is worth picking them over carefully to check for any holes or cracks, discarding any that are not perfect. If you want to keep the chestnuts for roasting then it is good to keep them hanging in onion bags or old tights to allowing the air to circulate around them and stoping getting damp. If you are going to use the chestnuts for cooking, it is best to blanch, peel and freeze them. Peeling chestnuts is time consuming but I find the best method is to pierce each chestnut with a 5mm cut on the flat side and then put in boiling water, bring back to the boil for five minutes until soft and then drain. Many recipes now tell you to soak in cold water for 3minutes but actually the inner skin is much easier to peel off when hot. Its up to you but the outer shell comes off easily but the inner film, which varies in colour from cream to brown, takes more time and if the chestnuts are too soft they can crumble. I try and boil them in small batches and then wrap them in a dish cloth whilst I peel them to keep them warm. Roast chestnuts can be eaten warm straight from the oven or fire. To roast chestnuts most people recommend cutting a small cross in the flat side of the chestnut but a slit will do. They can then either be put into the oven (~200C) or onto an open fire until the insides are soft and the skin starts to curl back.
- 12 oz roasted chestnut (peeled)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine nuts, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-35 minutes until the majority of the liquid is evaporated. Remove pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Take out the chestnuts reserving the liquid and transfer to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add back the syrup/liquid slowly until you get to the desired consistency. Allow to cool.
- 12 oz roasted chestnuts (peeled)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. The liquid should just cover the chestnuts if not add a little more. Simmer the chestnuts until soft, about 10-20 minutes. Watch them as milk can quickly boil over the side of a pan. Take out the chestnuts reserving the liquid and transfer to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add back the reserved liquid until you get the desired consistency. Allow to cool.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||2.26 g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber||8.1 g||21%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.509 mg||11%|
|Vitamin A||28 IU||1%|
|Vitamin C||43 mg||72%|
Nutritionally chestnuts are very different from other nuts and are more like starchy vegetables or whole grains. Unlike other nuts they are low in both total and saturated fats with around 2g of fat per 100g and most of this being either monounsaturated or Omega-3. They are lower calorie than other nuts giving around 240calories per 100g. They are the only nut that contains vitamin C with about 12mg in a 30g serving of raw nuts. This will deteriorate with cooking or storage but they are still a good source. Ground chestnuts have a GI score of 54 making them a good for diabetics and provide about 2g of fibre in a 30g serving – similar to a piece of whole meal bread. Chestnuts are gluten free and chestnut flour is useful in gluten free cooking.
Although due to their high water content the amount of vitamins and minerals appears lower than other nuts, chestnuts do contain good levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, panthotenic acid and folate as well as a number of active phytonutrients.