So many of us grew up listening to Nat King Cole sing about “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.” Just hearing that song brings images to mind of a snowy vintage Christmas. Although we sing about roasting chestnuts and watch the storyline in almost every Hallmark movie, many of us have never experienced the tradition first hand. It’s time to change and learn how to roast chestnuts.
Chestnuts are grown on trees in most climate zones across the country. We recently planted a couple of trees on our property in the Midwest, but will not see the results of our work for a few years. Chestnuts are harvested in the fall and should be refrigerated throughout December. This year we purchased our chestnuts from a local farm in Missouri. These nuts have a reputation for being hard to find and spoiling easily. Don’t let that deter you. If you start your search early, buy a few more than you need, and refrigerate them, it will be worth the extra work.
Once you get the chestnuts home, rinse them in your sink. It’s important to clean and soften the shell. Next, you will want to toss the nuts into a bowl of water. This process can help determine if you have any undesirable nuts. Good chestnuts will usually sink, and moldy ones will float. Discard any that are floating or cracked.
Start the process to roast chestnuts by soaking and scoring them. Once they are clean, place the nuts on a cutting board flat side down. With a sharp knife, score each chestnut with an X on the round side. This is necessary to allow the steam to escape when cooking.
Next, put the nuts in a pan flat side down. Prepare your open fire so there is a bed of coals or grate to cook on. The chestnuts and pan heat up quickly, so you will want to be prepared in advance with your potholders. Roast chestnuts for five minutes and then remove the pan. With tongs, turn each chestnut over and cook them for another five minutes. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they are warm. As soon as you can handle them, peel off the shell and the papery covering that is underneath.
Although some people love to eat the chestnuts after they are peeled right off the fire, most like to chop and add them to their favorite recipes. Chestnuts have a rustic flavor and they bring an earthy taste to pesto, soups & roasted meats. However, my favorite chestnut recipe will make your sweet tooth happy.
Chestnut cream is also known as Crème de Marrons. If you're a fan of Nutella, you will enjoy this melt in your mouth treat. This simple puree of chestnuts, sugar and vanilla can be added into many of your holiday desserts such as frostings, cookies and used as a pastry spread.
Roasting chestnuts on an open fire is a wonderful kickoff to your holiday season. Be prepared, you may feel the need to break out in song and Christmas carols. I hope you can enjoy this tradition around the open fire with your family and friends.
Lana lives with her husband and kids on a small farmstead in Kansas City, where they raise goats, chickens & bees. They are fixing up their 120 year old farmhouse one room at a time. Lana is a University Business Professor, and she enjoys local Kansas City BBQ any chance she gets. Learn more about Lana at LannaStenner.com.