There’s nothing like going on an autumn stroll. Wading through the fallen leaves and collecting chestnuts. Though our daughter simply collects them as decoration (or to put then on the nearest available surface and forget about them), they are actually very tasty. Of course you can buy them boiled and peeled in a can or vacuum pack. But if you’re brave enough to give preparing them yourself a try, you can buy them fresh at the greengrocer’s.
For those brave souls, we present this how-to.
When you collect your own chestnuts, you first need to know which chestnuts you’re dealing with. There are two types of chestnut commonly found in Europe. Only the Castanea sativa or sweet chestnut is edible. Sweet chestnuts have one flattened side and a little tuft on top. They usually come in pairs (or more) in a sheath that’s completely covered in prickly spines. In contrast, the inedible poisonous horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), is completely round. There is usually just one chestnut per sheath. There are spikes on that sheath as well, but far fewer then on that of the sweet chestnut.
Fresh chestnuts spoil very quickly. So if you collect them yourself, make sure you only pick up the ones that look fresh. Not like they’ve been there for a couple of days already. Moisture is your enemy as far as shelf-life is concerned. You need to dry them as soon as possible. To do this, remove them from their prickly outer casing and wash them in cold water to remove any sand or dirt. Then spread them out on a towel, leaving plenty of space between them so the air can circulate easily. Leave them at room temperature. At this point you can already eat your chestnuts. They make for great snacks, but make sure you check each one before eating! Because despite your best efforts some will go mouldy.
Chestnuts will only keep this way for about a week. There are a couple of options if you want to keep them longer, like refrigerating or dehydrating. However, we decided to go with freezing. Preparing chestnuts for freezing isn’t difficult, but it is time consuming. Once you’re done however, your chestnuts will be ready to use in a variety of recipes and they will keep for up to a year.