So many of us grew up listening to Nat King Cole sing about “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”. Hearing that song brings images to mind of a snowy vintage Christmas. Although we sing about it and watch the story line in almost every Hallmark movie, many of us have never experienced this tradition first hand. It’s time to change that. Chestnuts are grown on trees in most climate zones. We recently planted a couple of trees on our property in the Midwest, but we will not see the results of our work for a few years. Chestnuts are harvested in the fall and should be refrigerated throughout December.

1. Rinse Chestnuts

This year we purchased our chestnuts from a local farm in Missouri. Chestnuts have a reputation for being hard to find and spoiling easily. Don’t let that deter you. If you start your search early, buy a few more than you need, and refrigerate them, it will be worth the extra work. Once you get the chestnuts home, rinse them to clean and soften the shell.

2. Fresh Test

Next you will want to toss them in a bowl of water. This process can help determine if you have any undesirable nuts. Good chestnuts will usually sink, and moldy ones will float. Therefore, discard any that are floating or cracked.

3. Score the Nuts

Start the roasting process by scoring the chestnuts. First, place the nuts on a cutting board flat side down. Next, with a sharp knife you will score each chestnut with an X in the shell on the round side. This will allow the steam to escape when cooking.

4. Prepare Fire

Next, put the nuts in a pan flat side down. Prepare your open fire so there is a bed of coals or grate to cook on. The chestnuts and pan heat up quickly, so you want to be prepared in advance with potholders. Cook the chestnuts for five minutes and then remove the pan. With tongs turn each chestnut over and cook them for another five minutes. It’s as simple as that.

5. Peel Nuts

Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they are warm. As soon as you can handle them, peel off the shell and the papery covering that is underneath. Although some people love to eat the chestnuts after they are peeled right off the fire, most like to add them to their favorite recipes. Chestnuts have a strong flavor and they add a rustic and earthy taste to pesto, soups & roasted meats. However, my favorite chestnut recipe will make your sweet tooth happy.

6. Chestnut Creme

Chestnut cream is also known as Crème de Marrons. If you are a fan of Nutella or cookie butter, you will enjoy this melt in your mouth treat. It’s a simple puree of chestnuts, sugar and vanilla.  It’s often added to holiday desserts such as frostings and cookies. Chestnut creme is also a rich pastry spread.

Roasting chestnuts on an open fire can be a wonderful kickoff to your holiday season. Be prepared, you may feel the need to break out in song and sing Christmas carols. I hope you can enjoy this tradition around the open fire with your family and friends.

Blessings to you this holiday season!

Lana XO

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