All about chestnuts

Chestnuts are on a comeback! Learn how to choose a good chestnut, plus how to roast chestnuts and store them properly.

By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Types of chestnuts
Choosing chestnuts at the store: Fresh chestnuts have the best flavour and texture, but if you don’t have a kitchen brigade at your disposal, peeling them is time consuming. Look for these alternatives at grocery and specialty stores.

Dried chestnuts are the least expensive and most like fresh chestnuts in flavour and texture. Look for them in Italian and Chinese grocery stores all year round. To prepare: In bowl, soak 2 cups (500 mL) chestnuts in 6 cups (1.5 L) boiling water for at least 2 hours or overnight; drain. In saucepan, cover chestnuts with water and bring to boil; cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and they are ready to use in recipe.

Vacuum-packed chestnuts
are softer than fresh but are ready to use interchangeably with prepared fresh or dried ones. Though more expensive than ready-to-use canned, their taste is superior. If you are chopping them for a recipe, look for less expensive chestnut pieces.

Canned chestnuts are cooked and ready to use interchangeably with prepared fresh, dried and vacuum-packed ones. Rinse and drain well before using. Some are packed in syrup for use in desserts, so check labels.

Puréed chestnuts and chestnut spreads
are available sweetened and unsweetened in the baking aisle during the holiday season. To make your own: In saucepan, cover peeled prepared fresh or dried chestnuts with boiling water; reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid. In food processor, purée hot chestnuts until smooth, thinning with reserved liquid if desired.

For savoury purée, substitute chicken stock for water and flavour cooking liquid with celery stalk and pinch of salt. To serve, stir in a little butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For sweet purée, substitute milk for water and flavour cooking liquid with a touch of vanilla.

Page 2 of 3 -- Find equivalent measures for different types of preserved chestnuts on page 3


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