We need to get the remainder of the chestnut crop in, maybe this weekend if the weather holds. Although the family will happily eat through the glut in a few days if I make soups, biscuits, and roast some on the barbecue, I want to try my hand at preserving some. Right now there's one big mature tree and a couple of younger ones bearing nuts, and I plan to plant out several more in the next couple of years, so before long we should have a decent crop to contend with.
Are there any tried and true methods for drying and making flour? How well does it keep? Freezer space can be contentious here, and it will be at a premium when the current whiteface steer meets the butcher next month, so I'm keen on nonfrozen storage if possible.
we've had good luck with smoking chestnuts, baking them in an oven, and roasting them around a fire to dry them. they're all fine options, and the flour is different for each. I wouldn't use smoked chestnut flour to make cookies, for instance, but it makes really excellent pasta.
the smoked stuff isn't terribly perishable. can't really speak to the other options, as whatever doesn't get used immediately seems to end up in a freezer, either as flour or already made into dough of some sort.
We live in a big chestnut area where chestnuts were tge staple until fairly recently and generally the consensus seems to be that even dried they wont last more than 6 months and even then it is recommended you freeze the dried seeds. They are aprticularly susceptible to high humidity and little wievels. I would suggest a combination of drying and storing with moisture and oxygen absorbers in a cool, dark place. N.b. as you get older you become less tolerant on some of the minerals in raw nuts. As I found out last year when I spent a few days noshing on ours. So beware!
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the local-ish chestnut expert around here keeps nuts in cold storage. he said the traditional advice to store them in dry sand for consumption and wet sand for planting works, but results in a fairly high rate of loss.
Mike Barkley wrote:Any recommendations on HOW to roast chestnuts? I'm harvesting several large trees worth as we speak. Never tasted a chestnut before but this is the year!!!
In the shell! I believe you can cook them on a griddle/flat top, or a pan would work, just stirring them so they don't burn. They steam inside the shell, then you can peel the shell open after they're cooked. I buy these hot in the shell at the asian grocery when they're in season. There are little tools that you can use to cut the shell open, but I just use my canines and thumbnails. Now I don't mean to roast the whole clusters in the spikey looking husk, just the individual nuts in their own papery shells. They don't need any oil or anything.
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Mike Barkley wrote:Any recommendations on HOW to roast chestnuts?
depends what you plan to use them for. if you just want to eat whole roasted chestnuts, roast them however you like. in an oven. over a fire. a microwave would probably even work. they're much easier to peel and less likely to explode if you score the shell (I believe this is the intended use of chestnut knives). most folks score an x on some part. the hotter they are when peeled, the easier the task is. the pellicle (the skin under the shell that is a little bit astringent) comes off more easily if there are some American (Castanea dentata) involved. I don't mind the pellicle, but some folks do.
if you're going to make flour with them, boiling, steaming, and smoking are also good options. dehydrated might also work, though I've never tried it and I'm not sure how to go about it to ensure that peeling is easy.
don't know if I mentioned candying or preserving chestnuts in sugar syrup previously. I've done that a couple of times. it preserves them well enough, and they're sort of tasty, but the sweetness washes out most of the actual chestnut flavor. I may just not have found the best use for them.