Chestnuts Roasting 

For Christmas, my family brought chestnuts from their Chestnut orchard in Oklahoma. Most folks have never had a chestnut (we hadn’t until we were adults), but they have heard The Christmas Song which includes the familiar line “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”.  It’s been sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to Garth Brooks to Justin Bieber.  With our recent gift from Oklahoma we decided to roast some chestnuts. Did I mention that they are delicious?  If you’ve never tried one, you’re missing out.

The chestnut trees we grow for nut production are select Chinese Chestnut varieties. They were chosen specifically due to their ability to grow in our soil types, their excellent branch development for heavy production; plus their very large and  very sweet, nuts. And from a harvesting perspective, these nuts drop easily while the burr is in the tree. And that’s really important, considering how sharp the outside of burrs can be! 

Now it’s time to begin the process for roasting chestnuts in your kitchen. First, preheat your over at 400F. Next, score your chestnuts. This is done to allow the moisture to release from inside the chestnut.  This can be done a couple of ways. The most common is to take a sharp knife and make an “x” as shown in the picture below.  The knife I’m using is not the best knife, this knife is a bit safer and easier to use.  

For Christmas a few years ago, my lovely wife bought me a chestnut cutter.  This makes the job a bit easier and quicker. I’ve found that placing the round side towards the cutter works well.

By the way, this task is best done in good company, even little hands can help.

Next, place the scored chestnuts on a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Cook for 15-25 minutes until the skins start to peel back.

Now to peel the chestnut, first squeeze them like a baked potato where your fingers are in line with the score mark.  I did about 100 nuts before realizing that I should be squeezing them and my thumbs paid the price!  This loosens the meat inside the shell substantially and makes it much easier to remove the meat from the shell. After you’ve loosened it up pull it out of  the shell and the pith (the thin papery covering).  If the nuts cool and become difficult to peel you can put a few cups in the microwave for 30 seconds and they will loosen back up.  

It can be a bit of work, but it’s very rewarding to enjoy eating  and cooking with roasted chestnuts. 

With these chestnuts we’ll be making Chestnut Flour and Chestnut Butter.  Keep an eye out for these upcoming posts.

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