Roasted Chestnuts

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You know the song, right? It’s called “The Christmas Song,” but most of us know it as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” I have heard that song all my life, but I had never eaten a chestnut. I figured they were like walnuts or something, and couldn’t figure out how in the world a nut got an entire Christmas song to itself. I mean, I get peppermint having a song, or even gingerbread. But chestnuts? Clearly, some political move from the chestnut lobby.

So when our Produce Box arrived last week with a bag of chestnuts from a local farm, I thought it would be a good time to see what all the hype was about. I decided to make a chestnut sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving and to prep the chestnuts, I would roast them not over an open fire (torrential rain here), but in the oven. I was a bit intimidated by the whole “cut an x in the nut shell or it will explode” business, but it all turned out well. I have a little serrated paring knife that worked very well at cutting through the shell, and nothing exploded inside my oven (which is good because calling a repair person the week of Thanksgiving is a good way to end up with a dinner of grilled cheese).

After cutting the X into each shell, I put the nuts (cut side up) in a cake pan and popped them into a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. Here are the before and after photos:

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I let the roasted nuts cool for 10 minutes before peeling them and that was ample time. The nut shells came off quite easily and were tossed into the compost bin. I tasted one of the warm nuts, and couldn’t believe how meaty it tasted. Wow! I tried another one in case the first was some kind of abberation. Delicious! It took a great deal of self-control not to eat all of them and adjust my stuffing recipe to suit pecans. In fact, the next time I see them offered by The Produce Box, I am going to order more. Talk about great football snacks!

So now when I hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” this holiday season, I will have a better frame of reference. And I’ve tried a new local farm product this week, too! Hope the rest of the chestnuts make it to Thursday 🙂

Roasted Chestnuts

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. With a sharp paring knife, score an “x” on the flat side of the nut, cutting through the shell.
  3. Put the nuts, cut side up, in a roasting pan or other shallow, oven-safe pan.
  4. Roast the chestnuts for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let nuts cool for about 10 minutes.
  6. Peel the shells from the nut meat and discard the shells.
  7. Use the nuts immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.
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6 responses

  1. In the late 80’s and 90’s I worked with a lady at a South Florida hospital. She was born in Montreal, Canada around the year 1910. She described how much of North America was covered in Chestnut trees until the blight destroyed nearly all of them by 1920. For the last 100 years most of our chestnuts have come from Europe and Asia – now scientists are within two or three years of reintroducing true American chestnuts that are resistant to the chestnut blight.

    Anyhow she taught my wife and I various methods for preparing the chestnuts and how people in the 1800’s and up until the 1920’s considered them an important food source and a Holdiay tradition

    Overview from Wikipedia

    The chestnut blight was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900, probably on imported Japanese chestnut nursery stock. In 1905, American mycologist William Murrill isolated and described the fungus responsible (which he named Diaporthe parasitica), and demonstrated by inoculation into healthy plants that the fungus caused the disease.[1]By 1940, most mature American chestnut trees had been wiped out by the disease.[2]
    Infection of American chestnut trees with C. parasitica simultaneously appeared in numerous places on the east coast, most likely from Castanea crenata, or Japanese chestnut, which had become popular imports.[3] Japanese and some Chinese chestnut trees have some resistance to infection by C. parasitica: the infection usually does not kill these Asian chestnut species. Within 40 years the nearly four-billion-strong American chestnut population in North America was devastated[4] — only a few clumps of trees remained in California, Michigan, Wisconsin and the Pacific northwest. Because of the disease, American chestnut wood almost disappeared from the market for decades, although it can still be obtained as reclaimed lumber.[5]
    It is estimated that in some places, such as the Appalachian Mountains, one in every four hardwoods was an American chestnut. Mature trees often grew straight and branch-free for 50 feet and could grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 14 feet at a few feet above ground level. For three centuries many barns and homes near the Appalachian Mountains were made from American chestnut.[6]
    The root collar and root system of the chestnut tree have some resistance against the fungal infection; consequently, a large number of small American chestnut trees still exist as shoots growing from existing root bases. However, these regrown shoots seldom reach the sexually reproductive stage before being killed by the fungus.[7] They only survive as living stumps, or “stools,” with only a few growing enough shoots to produce seeds. This is just enough to preserve the genetic material necessary to engineer an American chestnut tree using genes from any of the disease-immune Asiatic species to confer resistance to the disease. Efforts started in the 1930s and are still ongoing, in Massachusetts[8] and many other places in the United States, to repopulate the country with these trees.[4]

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