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Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Well ok, our open fire was in the gas oven :)

This week Winter officially begins, although we will be enjoying high temperatures near 50°F.  The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, will come and go, marking the beginning of increasing daylight hours!

Also, Christmas is upon us again!  And as The Christmas Song starts out, this week I'll share a recipe for roasting chestnuts.  Enjoy this classic Nat King Cole version as you read more.

American Chestnuts are being back-crossed with Chinese Chestnuts to be resistant to the chestnut blight.  The American Chestnut Foundation has dedicated decades of work to this task.  But as I posted on Facebook this week, researchers may have found a wild resistant line of American Chestnut trees in Maine!

Chestnuts are a highly prized nut tree in many permaculture, silvopasture and agroforestry systems, along with hazelnut, oak, butternut and walnut.

Ours were collected in October at the Brenton Arboretum, West of the Des Moines metro between Dallas Center and Adel.  (I planted some trees there way back when!)
Thanks girls and Ms. Lee
  1. Preheat your oven to 400° while you cut the shells
  2. Lay the nut on a cutting board, flat(-ish) side for stability
  3. Using extreme caution cut an "X" across the top.  Get all the way through the shell and skin avoiding the flesh.  A bigger knife than the little cheap one in the picture would work better.  My thumb was pretty sore from pressing down to cut through the tough shell. Also the wider X's seemed to peel easier.
  4. Place them X-side up in a cookie sheet, baking pan or dish and roast for ~15-20 minutes. 
  5. After ~10 minutes rotate/shake the pan a bit to help them cook evenly and continue roasting. Also, check to make sure the inner skin is not drying out or it will be hard to peel off. 
  6. Check every ~5 minutes and remove when the shells start to peel back and the flesh turns golden, or if any skin looks to be sticking.
  7. As soon as they have cooled enough to handle start peeling the shell back.  If they cool completely you warm them back up to make it easier to peel, saving your thumbs a bit.
Photo Courtesy NYC2 & Outdoorlicious

You might also want to try soaking them for thirty minutes to an hour in salt water. 

Supposedly the street vendors in New York city boil them and only roast them a bit for looks. 

I have not done it but either way is supposed to make them moist and easier to peel.

They are a unique treat, kind of a lot of work, but very nostalgic!  They are pretty starchy with a somewhat sweet taste with a hint of mapley-butter flavor.  Maybe I can experiment a little on the recipe too. 

May your Yuletide be gay! And...

Have a Merry Christmas!

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