CHESTNUTS Cooking lesson
There are four main species of chestnut trees: the Chinese chestnut, the Japanese chestnut, the European chestnut, and the American chestnut. They all cook similarly.
Flavors and Knowledge

Dec 9


FOTO: {Image Attribution via Baby Green}

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Buongiorno amici:

Today we talk about how to cook and how to store chestnuts.

There are several health benefits included in the chestnuts, from vitamin C to plenty of antioxidants, digestive improvements, and help in the various cardiovascular issues. In addition, chestnuts are one of the symbols of autumn and winter. Finally, they are a gratifying comfort food like a few others. So, let’s dive into it and discover the various cooking applications.

The first question involves the difference between the types of chestnuts and marroni.

Sometimes chestnut and marroni are used interchangeably, but these are fruits of different plants. Chestnut trees grow spontaneously in many Italian mountain areas and have always been a part of peasant life. Some chestnuts arrive from China and Japan but with questionable quality. Always look for the country of provenience when purchasing.

Marroni refers to the fruits of the brown chestnut, a variety created with grafts and characterized by sweeter fruits than the spontaneous varieties and therefore considered more valuable. Naturally, therefore, the price of marroni is higher than chestnuts. However, cooking chestnuts or the marroni type in the oven allows you to obtain a very close result to the roasted chestnuts you will find in many of the Italian street corners around this time of the year, enchanting the romance of wintertime.

Here’s how to cook chestnuts in the oven.

Begin by immersing the whole chestnuts in cold water for about 30 minutes, and remove those that rise to the surface because they may be rotten or heavily bruised. Next, dry the remaining ones with a cloth and with a sharp knife, cut the peel of the chestnuts horizontally in the most rounded part of the fruit for at least 1/2 inch. Dip the chestnuts in a pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes, allowing the cut to open slightly. Drain the chestnuts and evenly distribute them on a baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven at 325F for 20-25 minutes. Place the cooked chestnuts in a paper bag or wrapped in a kitchen towel for 5-10 minutes before consuming them. The heat will make the peeling much more manageable. Many people bypass the boiling portion, but the heat needs to go through when cooked in the oven.

How to cook chestnuts in a pan (such as roasted chestnuts)

You can roast chestnuts on the stove in the typical perforated pan as an alternative to the oven. You can also use a cast-iron pan if you don’t own the classic chestnut pan. First, immerse the whole chestnuts in cold water for about 30 minutes, remove those that rise to the surface, and dry the remaining ones with a cloth. Next, make an incision and drop them in boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Drain, and place the chestnuts in a typical perforated pan or cast-iron. Cook on the stove-top on medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time to roast them evenly. Depending on the gas output, you will need about 15 minutes or more for the complete process. Also, the size of the chestnuts needs consideration in the cooking time allocated. A fitted lid on the pan will speed up the cooking process; however, the sealing may release too much moisture from the dry fruit. Finally, remove the chestnuts from the pan and let them rest closed in a paper bag or wrapped in a cloth for 5-10 minutes before consumption.

Cook chestnuts in the microwave.

Immerse the whole chestnuts in cold water for about 30 minutes, remove those that rise to the surface, and dry the remaining ones with a cloth. Make an incision with a pairing knife as you would with other methods, and soak them in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and evenly distribute them with a cut facing upwards on a microwave-safe dish and set to 5 minutes cycle. Rest for 5 minutes, and place them in a paper bag for about 10 minutes before eating. The microwave method does not offer the roasting sensation and taste achieved in the roasting versions. Cycle time may vary.

To boil chestnuts in the pot.

Here, again, immerse the whole chestnuts in cold water for about 30 minutes, remove those that rise to the surface, and dry the remaining ones with a cloth. Next, put the chestnuts in a pan with enough cold water to cover them, 1-2 bay leaves, and a pinch of salt. Allow the water to reach boiling and cook over low heat for about 50 minutes. When the pulp is soft (pierced with the tip of a knife), drain the chestnuts. With boiled chestnuts, you can prepare an excellent chestnut cream with the addition of unsweetened cocoa to consume immediately.

Here’s how:

Gather 8 ounces of cooked chestnut pulp in a medium bowl. (Remove the skin). Dissolve 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a cup of hot water, and add the sweetened water to the pulp of the chestnuts, along with two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Puree the mixture with a hand-held blender until smooth and rich. Transfer the creamed chestnuts to an airtight glass jar and store them in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. You can use the creamy mixture on ice cream, savory pumpkin tartlets, plum cakes, or walnut galette. In addition, if you intend to make the puree savory, use a good vegetable broth and omit the sugar. You will have an excellent chestnut soup, especially if paired with butternut squash or any solid vegetables of choice.

Storing chestnuts safely.

You can store fresh chestnuts in the refrigerator for at least one month, but it is crucial to separate the healthy ones from those affected by insects or molds. Soak the chestnuts in cold water for at least 1-2 days (replacing the water every day) and eliminate the chestnuts that rise to the surface. Dry the chestnuts with a towel, transfer them to a paper or cloth bag, and keep them tightly closed. Keep the chestnuts bag in the refrigerator in the vegetable drawer. As an alternative to the refrigerator, you can store fresh chestnuts in the freezer for up to 6 months and more. As always, cut the skin with a small knife before freezing them. When ready for use, cook them frozen immediately, and don’t wait for the thawing time.

An ancient and natural method to preserve fresh chestnuts uses sand. However, less practical but truly efficient. Try covering your chestnuts entirely with beach sand. It is both natural and time-saving. Preservation in the sand is an ancient (but not altogether abandoned) method to preserve vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, onions, celeriac, melons, and watermelons for a long time, which in the sand find humidity and air exchange ideal for preservation. In this case, chestnuts must be placed in a container full of clean and humidified sand (1 liter of water per 10 kg of sand) and placed in a cool place. Chestnuts, whether boiled or roasted in a pan or the oven, can be stored for a long time in the refrigerator or freezer after allowing them to cool completely. If you want to keep roasted chestnuts in the freezer, you have to peel them first. You can store cooked chestnuts in a couple of ways: in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, in airtight containers suitable for contact with food in the freezer for up to 6 months in frozen food bags or other suitable hermetically sealed containers. I have a better idea: eat them all at once!

Note: cook without waste and optimize time in the kitchen by reusing the chestnut boiling water to cook potatoes or other starchy vegetables (tubers).

Check out the recipe for Mont Blanc, courtesy of The Spruce Eats.

{Image Attribution via Michael Laiskonis}

The unusual dessert uses chestnuts puree, and it resembles the famed snow-capped peak straddling the border of France and Italy in the Eastern Alps. Embraced as a staple of French patisserie for decades, some versions of the Mont Blanc date back to the 19th cent. In its simplest form, the dessert comprises little more than a mound of sweetened chestnut puree piped into distinctive threads or vermicelli and topped with whipped cream. It has seen a resurgence as pastry chefs worldwide develop creative updates and interpretations. {Trusted Source ICE.EDU}

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