What are Chestnuts and What Do They Taste Like?
Do you need to know how to roast chestnuts? Knowing how to roast and peel chestnuts is very vital. In this guide, you will get to know just that. But first, we need to understand what chestnuts are. They are seeds that you can eat, and they are from the sweet chestnut tree.
The outer shell is dark brown with a paper-like skin that you should remove before eating because it tastes bitter. Its flesh has a smooth texture with a sweet, nutty taste.
How to Eat Chestnuts
You can eat chestnuts just as they are. Since they have a sweet, nutty flavor, you can eat them with salt and butter. The taste you will get here is like that of popcorn but less crunchy.
The other way is to use them in savory recipes or sweet treats. You can also add them to stuffing or dressing or whirl them in soup.
Keep in mind that you need to cook your chestnuts before eating them.
Are Chestnuts Good for You?
Chestnuts are good for your health. This is because they are rich in Vitamin C, unlike other nuts. However, roasted chestnuts lose some of these vitamins: 15%-20% of the vitamins that remain after roasting them are still vital for your body.
After cooking chestnuts, they still produce antioxidants: ellagic and gallic acid that increase in concentration after cooking. Below are other health benefits of chestnuts:
- Aid in digestion- Chestnuts are a good source of fiber and help grow healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Support heart health- They are a good source of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants that prevent stroke or other related heart diseases.
- Source of nutrients- Chestnuts are highly nutritious with fatty acids, antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and B Complex. Other minerals include Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium.
How to Open and Peel Chestnuts
Have you ever wondered how to open a chestnut? When you compare chestnuts to other nuts, you will notice that their shells are softer, making them relatively easy to peel. But being easy to peel doesn’t mean that you can crack it anyway! First, you need to cook the chestnuts. Then, keep them warm so their skin doesn’t re-cling to the nut as it cools down.
Before cooking or steaming, cut an “x” or a “y” on the chestnut’s shell. This will make the shell detach itself from the nut as it continues to cook. After that, cool the steamed chestnuts and start peeling them.
How to Prepare Chestnuts
- Before you roast your chestnuts, the first thing you need to do is wash them. It might not make sense to roast them and not eat the shells, but you must clean them. Remember, you will touch the exterior casing with the same hands that you will use to peel them and eat them too!
- You can also soak the chestnuts before roasting them. This allows the flesh inside to steam.
- After your chestnuts are clean, dry them and put them on a cutting board. Cut a slit into the shell as it will allow steam to escape when cooking. If you don’t make a slit, there will be nowhere for steam to escape, and hence, the chestnuts may explode.
- A serrated knife is ideal for making the cuts. To have an easier time when peeling, ensure you make large cuts. The cut edges will curl back during cooking and give you something to hold on to when peeling.
Chestnuts in Italy
Italian chestnuts are common in Tuscany. In Italian, they are known as marroni or castagne. During earlier years, chestnuts were just left on trees. People believed they were food for the poor. You will find them in plenty during October. This is the reason why food festivals in Tuscany focus on chestnuts.
Today, the growth, harvest, and sale of chestnuts are protected and regulated to maintain quality. You will find chestnuts in products that are certified as being Castagna del Monte Amiata IGP, Marrone del Mugello IGP, and Farina di Neccio della Garfagnana IGP.
The other area with chestnuts is near Arezzo at a place called Marrone of Caprese Michelangelo. So if you happen to be visiting Tuscany in October, make a stop at these areas to enjoy chestnuts on their own or goodies made from chestnut flour.
Below are some delicacies made from chestnut flour:
This is one of the most common Italian desserts in Tuscany. Chestnut flour, olive oil, walnuts, and rosemary make this flat cake. Less or no sugar is added because chestnuts are naturally sweet.
This dish is also made of chestnut flour. Some parts of Tuscany refer to it as necci, polenta di necci, and Garfagnana. It is a meal that looks like porridge from cornmeal. In Italy, Pattona is made from chestnut flour, millet, or chickpeas.
The Ballota and the Caldarrosta
The ballota is chestnuts cooked in water with cinnamon sticks or bay leaves. On the other hand, caldarrosta is roasted chestnut.
This is made by mixing chestnut flour with water to form a fluid dough cooked between two hot cast-iron round plates to create a thin flatbread.
More specifically, Minestrone or minestra. In areas like Amiata and Lunigiana, you will find chestnuts are put in the soup. In Amiata they call it brodolose. Farmers mostly used the soups to keep them warm on the farms during winter.
Ravioli, lasagne bastarde, gnocchi, tagliatelle, and other Tuscany pasta dishes include chestnuts in their composition. The tagliatelle are common in Florence, gnocchi in Pistoia mountains, and lasagne bastarde in Lunigiana.They are all made with chestnut flour and flavored with aromatic herbs, tomato sauce, melted butter, ricotta, or pecorino cheese.
Besides the dishes already mentioned above, chestnuts are also suitable for sweets like Monte Bianco, Dolci, or sweet tortelli. You can also get Caramelized marroni which are sugared chestnuts.
What do I Need to Roast Chestnuts?
The first thing, of course, is chestnuts. Get as many of them as you desire and make sure they are firm.
You will need water to boil the chestnuts before roasting them. You will also need a baking pan, a large pot, a serrated knife, and a cutting board for other tools.
How to Roast Chestnuts- Our Seven Simple Tips
Let us look at how to roast chestnuts at home. There are various methods, such as using an oven, hot coals, or even on a grill. However, the most common way of roasting chestnuts is via an oven.
Roasting Chestnuts in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Celsius /797 degrees Fahrenheit. To roast the chestnuts, you need a scorching oven that will enable the chestnut to separate from its skin. Ensure that you place the oven rack in the middle.
- Soak your chestnuts. Soaking your chestnuts in water will make it easier to make an incision.
- How to make an incision:
- Get the chestnuts and lay them flat on your cutting board.
- Cut a slit in the middle surface using a serrated knife
- Hold the chestnut firmly on the cutting board carefully so that you don’t end up cutting yourself since it is slippery.
The incision should cut through the inner skin so that the chestnuts don’t explode in the oven.
- Boil the chestnuts. Place the chestnuts in a large pot of water and let them boil. Boiling creates a suitable environment for steam to build up once you place them in the oven.
- Place the chestnuts on a baking pan. As the water boils, remove the chestnuts from the pot and place them on a baking pan.
- Roast the chestnuts in an oven. Remember to put your chestnuts on the baking pan with the flat side facing down and the cut side up. Let them roast for about 20 minutes. The size of the chestnuts determines the amount of time they will take to roast. To know whether the chestnuts are ready, eat one.
- Wrap them up. After ensuring they are ready, remove them from the oven and wrap them in a kitchen towel. Let them stay in the towel for about 10-15 minutes before you serve them.
Other Tips and Tricks for Roasting Chestnuts
- One thing you need to know is that chestnuts are easier to peel when they are warm. Suppose you have leftover chestnuts, peel them, then refrigerate them for one or two days. You can also freeze them.
- When making purchases, look for chestnuts that have the following characteristics:
- Are firm when you touch them
- Have a shiny look
- Look heavy for their size
- Are undamaged
- If you bought your chestnuts from the store, roast them within two to three days when they are still fresh.
FAQs On Roasted Chestnuts
When are chestnuts in season?
Chestnuts are always in season around mid-September to December. Typically harvesting begins in October to December.
Which chestnuts should I buy?
Buy chestnuts that have a shiny and hard shell. They should look heavy for their size and don’t rattle when you shake them.
How long do chestnuts last?
Fresh chestnuts can be refrigerated in an airtight container for ten days and a paper bag for two to three days. You can preserve the cooked ones in an airtight container for four days.
How do I serve roast chestnuts?
You can use them in sweet and savory dishes or add them to soups, salads, or stuffings.
Nuts About Nuts
Have you been wondering how to roast your chestnuts? Of course, by now, you know how to roast them and at least have one chestnut recipe to try, from the soups to the kinds of pasta and cakes!