Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is something that we’ve sung about our whole lives, but have you ever tasted one? Here’s how to roast chestnuts – safely in the oven.
How to Choose Chestnuts for Roasting
Chestnuts grow inside a prickly casing called a burr. When roasted, the shells crack open, revealing a golden yellow nut that you eat.
They are available in the autumn at your local grocery stores or online, but the best place to get fresh chestnuts free from mold is at your local farmer’s market. (You can also buy vacuum packed cooked chestnuts year-round, perfect for munching while you sing about them at Christmas.)
When you purchase your chestnuts, you should roast and eat them right away because they spoil quickly. Keep refrigerated for a week at the most.
If you don’t roast them in time, don’t worry – they make great fall decorations too.
(Chestnuts are often confused with acorns. Chestnuts are in the bowl, acorns are around the bowl.)
When choosing chestnuts:
- shell should not be dull – it should be a vibrant color with a shine
- shake it – if you hear the nut rattle inside don’t choose it, it has dried up
- if it has a crack or a blemish, don’t roast it
- smaller chestnuts cook faster, are less apt to be moldy, and taste better
- they should feel heavy
- they get moldy if in enclosed packaging – should be in paper or mesh bags
Word of warning if you are collecting chestnuts from the ground:
- horse chestnuts are poisonous – make sure you’re harvesting the correct kind
- harvest within 3 days from falling off tree
- if chestnuts have holes, don’t take them – they may be exit holes from worms
- soak for 20 minutes in water that is exactly 120° F to kill eggs and larvae of worms (read more at the Center for Agroforestry.)
How to Roast Chestnuts in the Oven
#1. Soak chestnuts in water to clean them. Some people believe soaking also helps cook the meat by steaming them.
#2. Cut slits in the surface of the nut or they will explode in the oven like potatoes do! The traditional way is to cut an “X” in the side with a sharp paring knife. A better way is to slice the pointed tip in one stroke because some chestnuts have 2 membranes inside and this will pierce both so the chestnut won’t explode. It also makes them easier to peel – they crack open like an egg.
#3. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet with the “X” facing up, and bake in a 425° F oven for 15 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your chestnuts. When they are cooked, the cut will have opened up, and they feel very hot. You will be able to smell the nutty scent – a nice bonus. (If you burn them they will be as hard as rocks and inedible.)
#4. Peel the shell and the bitter papery membrane while the chestnuts are still hot. If they cool, it will be almost impossible to remove the membrane. Wear clean knitted gloves (the cheap “finger gloves” you wear in winter) to protect your fingers from the heat and from being cut by the shell.
#5. Eat them as they are, or dip them in melted butter. Try them in your Thanksgiving stuffing!
Want even more? See our new autumn fun ideas.
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