Curing or Ripening Process:
Chestnuts taste better and sweeter when they are cured. Freshly harvested chestnuts will cure in 3 to 10 days, if left out at room temperature. As the water in the nut is lost, the starch is converted into a complex sugar. One can determine when the nuts are cured by squeezing the nut between the fingers – there should be a “little give.” The nut having lost water will shrink away from the inner shell.
NOTE: The triangular shaped nuts, versus the semi-round nuts will have a more nutty and delicious taste. I discovered this while watching squirrels “working-over “fallen chestnut hulls, each containing 3 nuts - they selected, first of all, the nut in the middle of the 3-nut hull, which is triangular shaped.
At the chestnut roasting station are Randy Smith, Lee Waybright, Eric Bautista, and Linda Huggins.
To Prepare Fresh Chestnuts For Roasting: start with heavy, glossy nuts with firm, smooth shells. Cut a small cross on one side of each shell to let steam escape as the nuts roast and to make them easier to peel afterward. Place chestnuts in a shallow roasting pan; sprinkle with water. Roast in 400°F oven for 25 to 20 minutes. Wrap hot chestnuts in towel and squeeze to crush the shells. Keep nuts wrapped for 5 minutes before removing the hard outer shell and the brown skin inside, being wary of burning your fingers. OR grill them on an open fire for 20 minutes after piercing them and soaking in water 5-10 minutes. One pound of fresh chestnuts equals about two cups when shelled.
1. Pierce the chestnut shells and soak in water for 5 -10 minutes
2. Place in pre-heated oven at 325’F. for 20 minutes
3. OR, place on top of stove under medium heat in a flat pan with ¼ inch of water for 20 minutes, until water evaporates
4. OR boil them for 12 – 15 minutes
5. OR grill them on an open fire for 20 minutes after piercing them and soaking in water 5-10 minutes.
6. OR microwave nuts on High setting for 30 seconds. Cool, peel, eat. Vary cooking time to suit, overcooking will dry the nut and make it rubbery. Always score with an X to prevent nuts from exploding.
Serves: 4 cupcakes
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 30 mins
2 oz buckwheat flour 3.5 oz chestnut puree 2 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 oz soft unsalted butter
2 tbsp cream 1 medium egg
1⁄2 vanilla bean salt 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
Add the chestnut puree, the cream, the brown sugar and the soft unsalted butter to the bowl of the stand mixer. Also add the seeds of the vanilla bean, the buckwheat flour, the baking powder, the whole egg and a little pinch of salt and ground cinnamon.
Attach the wire whip and lower the mixer head. Set the speed to 3 and mix the ingredients for 4 minutes. You should end up with a thick and sticky brownish almost grey colored cake batter.
Line a muffin tin with 4 paper cupcake casings and divide the cake batter evenly over them.
Bake the chestnut cupcakes in a preheated oven at 356°F for about 30 minutes until they have risen beautifully. Then take them out of the hot oven and let them cool down fully in the muffin tin.
You can prepare your favorite frosting in the meantime. Cream cheese, Nutella, cocoa powder... whatever combination you like for your chestnut buckwheat cupcakes! Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes only when they are fully cooled or the frosting will melt. Serve.
Chestnuts contain 50 -55% water,so they will “dry-out” and become hard, if left unattended for more than 10 – 15 days. Cured nuts contain about 30% water. Unattended chestnuts, piled on top of each other, will also mildew, especially if placed in a non-absorbable container, such as metal or plastic.
1. Place chestnuts in a plastic bag.
2. Enclose a damp, soaked paper towel in the bag and seal the bag.
3. Pierce and make 2 -3 millimeter holes, one inch apart, all around the plastic bag. A rounded Phillips screw driver works well for punching holes.
4. Place the bagged chestnuts on the coldest shelf of your refrigerator. Every two weeks, check to insure that the paper towel in the plastic bag has not dried out. Reason: Refrigerators generally only maintain a humidity of 25 -30%.
5. Chestnuts, thus stored, will be in good shape for November’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey, stuffed with chestnut dressing! Stored properly, the nuts will be good even in January and February.
Instead of using a paring knife, I pull out my big 10″ cook’s knife. Most, but not all, nuts have a flat side. Set the nut on the center of the cutting board flat side down. Put the tip of the knife down on one side of the cutting board, with your non-dominant hand over it there to hold it in place. Then, with your other hand, bring the knife down on top of the chestnut like a paper cutter.
The blade should touch the nut about two-thirds of the way up its blade towards the handle. You will quickly learn whether or not your knife is due for a sharpening–or if the chestnut itself is too old for roasting: If the chestnuts aren’t taut, and don’t just give under a sharp knife, you are going to have a hard time removing the middle layer of skin between the shell and the meat.