The Fresh (and Dried) Chestnut Roundup: Selecting, Storing, Roasting and Peeling, with recipes
Chestnuts are one of my favorite foods. Every year when they reappear I greet them with almost unseemly gladness, so not surprisingly they have made a number of appearances here.
Fresh Chestnuts, Roasting Them, Peeling Them, Putting them In The Stuffing has tips, tools, and techniques.
Recipe posts include
a modern take on an old favorite, and
another new twist on an old standard and in that same post a very easy because you use dried chestnuts White Chocolate Chestnut Candy.
Speaking of which (candy, not easiness) there’s also a post with full instructions for
So although I love and adore them I figured we’d pretty much come to the end of what I had to say. But then I mail-ordered some ‘Marroni’ directly from the grower
Wow, what a difference! The Marroni are not only sweeter than conventional chestnuts, they also have a lot more flavor. It’s sort of flowery, sort of fruity… and although they don’t taste like honey, their sweetness is to that of standard chestnuts as chestnut honey is to white sugar. There’s a hell of a lot more going on, including a lingering aftertaste faintly reminiscent of spice cookies.
The texture is different too, lighter and less gummy, yet still floury in that unique chestnutty way that you wouldn’t want to lose.
All that said, I don’t know how much of it is the variety (according to the grower, Marroni are a distinct cultivar) and how much of it is their far greater freshness. Not realizing I’d be wanting to compare them against something else that was equally fresh, I neglected to order any of the more common Colossals.
In other words, I’m pretty sure storage really matters. Chestnuts contain much more moisture than other nuts and should be kept refrigerated until a few days before they’re wanted. Growers do this. Shippers and grocery stores do not.
The “few days before they’re wanted” part is because fresh chestnuts will be sweeter (and easier to peel) if they sit at room temperature and dry out, just slightly, before you cook them.
Sourcing: Simple googling will turn up several chestnut growers who ship – I got the Marroni from Correia Chestnut Farm.
Photo note: The Marroni are yellower, that’s not a trick of the light. The brown spots are because they take longer to cook and I hadn’t figured out how long when I took the picture (of the first batch).