Thursday, 6 October 2011

Chestnut Stuffing

Halloween is on the horizon and Sweet Chestnuts are ready for gathering. I’m sure that last year the kids and I were wrapped up in scarfs and gloves for this activity but this year things are different.
Can't Touch This!
You can easily spot the places where they fall because of the spiny cases and crushed nuts on the pavements. The best way to avoid the prickles is to trap the cases using the edges of your shoes and squeeze downward until the nut pops out. Having said this, somebody always gets spiked on this kind of expedition – just the same as when you pick blackberries.
The Tell Tale Signs
I tell the children to only collect the very biggest nuts; otherwise you end up with far too many and end up composting some. We normally have a bit of a contest to see who can find the largest chestnut or draw the most blood.
This Could Hurt But It's Worth It
It’s always best to cook your chestnuts as soon as you can after collecting them as they don’t tend to keep too well, although you can freeze them. I like to roast them on a barbeque of burning twigs and let the flames actually burn the cases and skin, which makes them far easier to remove. They do not take very long under these conditions and generally as soon as they start hissing and bubbling (or exploding if you are unlucky) they are done enough. You can also bake them in a hot oven or by an open fire.
Always cut or pierce your nuts before cooking them or they will explode in a spectacular and possibly dangerous way. This cutting also helps to ease the removal of the pith (the bitter tasting skin between the shell and the nut).
A Small Amount of Big Brown Beauties
You can bake all kinds of things using chestnuts; on the continent they are used for making flour and chestnut stuffing is common in the UK. For many people the preparation required and the time this takes is prohibitive but chestnuts roasted on a fire are always a winner on a cold night.
Quick, Get The BBQ Burning.
Hang on, There's a Hazelnut in there too.
The quintessential autumnal feast, involves, cold air, steamy breath, rosy cheeks stuffed with roast chestnuts, possibly backed up with potatoes or apples baked in hot ashes of the fire on Guy Fawkes Night; all washed down with homemade mulled cider (mulled apple juice for the children).
Then it’s time to break out the sparklers before bedtime.


  1. I made my husband ram the brakes on the car along a leafy Devon lane at the weekend as I'd seen a sweet chestnut tree! Having never collected any before (only the conker variety!) I couldn't wait till we got them home to cook on the open fire. Stupidly I forgot to slit them and while I was out of the room, they exploded and my poor husband got covered in chestnut spittle! CAUTION!!

  2. lovely job.
    I bet that was fun to clear up too.
    I think we've all done it at some point though.
    Nicer than conkers though ;-)
    the Urbane Forager