It must be the hunter gatherer in me that means I am always attracted to the Sweet Chestnuts as they arrive in markets and shops. The glisten round and brown, and this year they are quite large. I've walked past a few Chestnut trees, this autumn and have looked through the leaf litter to see whether there is any 'mana from heaven', lurking and waiting for me to home and process into something tasty. Sadly this year the prickly outer shells have split to reveal many very small nuts, so they have been left for the squirrels.
We have only just recently eaten my little stash of chestnuts from last year, which I found in the corner of the freezer. I took the whole bag out and over several days enjoyed them in a number of dishes. It was with the thought of these tasty morsels that I picked up about a kilo from Kenilworth Market last week. It is always best policy to process the nuts as soon as possible, as they are liable to get musty if left in a bag for a couple of weeks.
The first note to myself was to freeze them so that I could take a few out at a time, to enjoy in dishes such as braised venison, or sliced and scattered between braised and roasted fennel or pumpkin. Of course they are delicious finished off with a little butter together with sprouts.
I am sure that each year I surf the internet looking for the best way to prepare them. I find getting the outer shell off, after a few minutes in boiling water fairly easy, but it is getting the second thinner skin off more troublesome. I do pop them back into the boiling water, but by the time I have finished them all there is the dark liquid and wet paper and cloths around. In fact by the time I had prepared them all, I just about thought I must be going mad! Maybe I should try roasting them in the oven for 1/2 an hour at 200C. I shall update this if and when I try this method.
The chestnuts are frozen, and ready to enjoy...will I remember the pain? Probably not! I love the fact that these nuts grow on large trees, that the trees are grown and have a crop, and some people somewhere care and grow the trees, gather the nuts, and get some sort of a living out of them. I suppose by processing them at home, I am not getting all the preservatives or added chemicals.
If anybody reading this has any tips, I'll be delighted to read your comments.