Fresh Chestnuts

Chestnuts, My New Love

October 3, 2009 · 23 comments

Fridays never come soon enough. I am not yet at the point in life where I can wake up and do exactly what I dreamed I’d be doing. I can’t bake bread in the mornings, or open the doors to my cafe while customers wait patiently outside for an espresso and muffin. It’ll happen. Just not yet.  For now, I’m trolling away at a desk job, waiting for the day I get “discovered” like a 16-year-old in a garage band.

So not only does Friday bring me closer to two days of reprieve, it’s also my day to escape during lunch and stroll around the farmers’ market. An hour to myself, where I can take my time and sample fresh fruits, discover a bitter Asian vegetable, or watch the catfish flop around at the fish stand.

Two weeks ago I was on my weekly sojourn and tried something I have never tasted before. Something smoky, yet sweet. It felt like a jelly, but looked like peanut butter. It was chestnut jam. I didn’t know you could make jam from chestnuts. I didn’t know you could do anything with chestnuts, other than roasting them over an open fire. And come on, do people really do that?

chestnut jame 2I didn’t buy the jam that day because I had plans after work and was already carrying too much, but it haunted me since. Did I like the jam? What could I do with it? Yesterday I went back to the stand and tried it again. Yes, I liked it. And not only liked it, I loved it. Winters Chestnuts were serving samples on sliced baguettes, and I was already imagining if the bread was grilled, and there was melted Dry Jack cheese oozing over the jam. I bought a 4-ounce jar for $4.50, and a pound of fresh chestnuts for $2.25.

chestnut jam

Winters Chestnuts are grown on a local family farm in Northern California, and you can find them at the Old Oakland market on Fridays and starting next week, at the Temescal market on Sundays. You can also buy their fresh chestnuts and jam on Foodzie. If you’ve never cooked with chestnuts, they have handouts describing how to store them, boil or roast them, and also a few recipes. If you can’t make it to the market, I’ll share their secrets with you…

jam and breadChestnuts compared to other nuts:
Chestnuts have a high water content and very little oil. They are high in carbohydrates, have lots of protein, and are gluten and cholesterol free. Nutritionally, they are similar to brown rice.

How to store chestnuts:
Chestnuts are like vegetables – they spoil. Store them in the fridge and they’ll last 1-2 weeks.

How to roast chestnuts:
Cut an “X” on the flat side of the chestnut with a sharp knife, getting down to the “meat.” I hear the nuts will actually explode from the pressure if you don’t do this, though I don’t know from experience. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place chestnuts on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes. Peel off the shell with a knife or your hands while the nuts are still warm.

How to boil chestnuts: Cut chestnuts in half or cut slits in the sides. Place in a pot of boiling water for 12 minutes. Drain, and peel while still warm. If the chestnuts cool too much, the shells get increasing hard to remove. This I do know from experience.

chestnut rice 3
Brown rice with chestnuts and sesame seeds

Adapted from Winter Chestnut’s recipe for Kuri Gohan. Serves 2, cook time: 1 hour

1 1/2 cups brown rice
8 ounces of chestnuts, boiled and peeled
3 tablespoons sesame oil
4 scallions, cut on the diagonal
3 cups water
1/4 cup sesame seeds
optional: fresh red chilies, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add rice, water and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil to a pot and bring to a boil. Add boiled, peeled chestnuts. Cover and co on low for 30 minutes. Tip: When I cook rice on the stove top, I put a clean, cotton towel between the lid and the pot. It helps catch the steam and creates fluffier rice.

Remove the lid and fluff rice with a fork. Add sesame seeds and the last tablespoon of sesame oil. Garnish with the sliced scallions and chopped chilies.

Where I shopped:
Winters chestnuts, scallions: Old Oakland Farmers’ Market
Brown rice: Berkeley Bowl
Sesame oil: Oakland Chinatown

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{ 5 trackbacks }

Chestnuts | Roasting, Boiling or in a Jam | Local Lemons | brownrice
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

maris October 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm

“Fridays never come soon enough. I am not yet at the point in life where I can wake up and do exactly what I dreamed I’d be doing. I can’t bake bread in the mornings, or open the doors to my cafe while customers wait patiently outside for an espresso and muffin. It’ll happen. Just not yet. For now, I’m trolling away at a desk job, waiting for the day I get “discovered” like a 16-year-old in a garage band.”

ME TOO. I couldn’t have said it better myself except that your cafe = my book that I want to write!

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maris October 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Although I have to add, I wouldn’t mind the cafe idea either!

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Sara October 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Way to try something new! I tried them a few times when I lived in Italy and they wouldn’t grow on me. Prior to that I was with you, thinking they were ‘roasting on an open fire’ in the days of pioneer Christmas’ ;)

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Jessica Lee Binder October 3, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I love chestnuts and have not had chestnut jam! I feel a little deprived now. I can’t wait for you to have a cafe. Will it be over in CA? It will give me a good excuse to come for another West coast trip.

As for roasting chestnuts….my brother has exploded some chestnuts before. He does not cook at all. When I make chestnuts, I usually soak them in water overnight, and then you don’t have to make the “x” on it before roasting.

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susie October 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The jam is awesome in its simplicity. Winters Chestnuts are also sometimes at the Sunday Temescal market in Oakland which is where I first saw them.:)

Keep an eye out for more interesting chestnut spreads! Dried chestnuts (as a snack)and pasta made with chestnut flour are also really great and popular in Italy.

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Lea Ann October 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Chestnut Jam!!! Wish I could find some here in Colorado. Sounds wonderful and interesting.

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hilary October 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm

You can buy it directly from foodzie.com!

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marysol October 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm

mmmmmmmm. chestnuts.
that was a beautiful post, i am longing for chestnuts!!!

i love them in soups, you should try it! they are a tasty surprise, most guests don’t know what they are eating, but they like it!

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Angela@spinachtiger October 3, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Chestnuts take me back to my childhood and back to holiday time. But, for some reason they have always mystified me. Now I’m more curious than ever to start dating chestnuts, maybe have a yearly winter thing with them.

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Sophie October 4, 2009 at 7:42 am

Thanks for those usuful tips & that dish sounds so good to me!!

I so love chestnuts!

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Dana October 4, 2009 at 9:10 am

I made a chestnut soup last fall that my clients went crazy for. It was the first time I had used them, but I used the jarred kind. I just wasn’t adventurous enough to crack them myself. How about you guys move to Seattle and we open that little place together?

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Maria October 5, 2009 at 8:23 am

I haven’t made anything with chestnuts, ever! How sad is that. Thanks for opening my eyes. I can’t wait to try them!

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Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen October 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I adore chestnuts! My husband is from Italy, and they sell them on the streets, fresh roasted in the winter – so we always roast chestnuts in the winter. They are so good and so much fun to eat. I love the idea of chestnut jam! I bet that WOULD be good with some melty cheese!

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Ashley October 5, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Stunning photos. Chestnut jam?! I’m so intrigued and also very hungry. With jack cheese?! Come on! That sounds incredible.

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Kate @ Savour Fare October 6, 2009 at 11:20 am

I first had roasted chestnuts during the semester I spent in London in college and I fell in love. And I adore chestnut jam, too. it’s great on crepes.

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is October 7, 2009 at 7:25 am

I don’t have the slightest idea how to work with chesnuts so this is very helpful. Thanks!

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Stitches April 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I’m out of league here. Too much brain power on dispaly!

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Christine October 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I need to get some of that chestnut jam!

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