Have you ever considered preparing chestnuts? Perhaps after listening to the classic Christmas carol that references roasting them on an open fire? Well, we have always wanted to try out the seasonal snack, as well. Harvested and ripe for the picking in the Fall, the chestnut is very low in fat and calories, unlike the typical nut, and can be prepared and seasoned a variety of ways.
While many grocery stores and local markets carry chestnuts, we decided to we wanted to go straight to the source and pick our own. Wintergreen Tree Farm in Mantua, Ohio offers cut-your-own Christmas trees, and pick-your-own blueberries and chestnuts, all of which are grown across several acres of land.
Think picking chestnuts is labor intensive? It’s not! If you go to a farm in the fall, the nuts have already fallen to the ground. All you have to do is scoop them up; no climbing and reaching for that one particular branch involved!
We were a little caught off guard by the prickly coverings on some of the nuts. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, some of the female flowers grow a spiny husk that houses up to 3 nuts inside. In Autumn, the burr splits open revealing several nuts that are all flat on one side.
There are several ways to prepare the chestnut, but we decided to stick with some simple seasoning, so we could really taste the flavor of the nut in its purest form. Other options to add flavor are spices like curry, cumin, and cayenne for a savory batch; and sugar or honey for all you sweet lovers out there.
Step 1. Using a sharp knife, cut a small slit (about 1 inch) in the shell, making sure not to puncture the nut inside.
Step 2. Bring water to a boil. Adjust heat to a medium boil and cook chestnuts for 15-20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees at this time.
Step 3. Lay out a sheet of foil on a baking tray. Strain nuts and empty them onto the foil
Step 4. Drizzle the nuts in oil and season them to your liking. We used a little bit of Vegeta, a savory spice blend. Fold foil over nuts and shake to ensure proper coverage of the oil and seasoning.
Side note: You do not have to bake the nuts. Boiling them alone makes them soft and chewy. Baking them will make them slightly crunchier and more firm.
Step 5. Open foil and spread it out so that it lies flat on the baking sheet, and then bake for 15 minutes.
Step 6. Remove the chestnuts and allow them to cool for 10 minutes.