The Cottage Smallholder

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Sweet Chestnut Jam recipe. Storing sweet chestnuts

sweet chestnutsI always associate sweet chestnuts with late autumn. And darkness. As a child, there were men on street corners selling chestnuts from glowing braziers, piling them into tiny paper bags. I always wanted my mother to buy them for us. And when she did, I didn’t like them. I’d peel one as we walked along, hoping that I’d suddenly find them delicious. But I never did. The floury texture put me off. I think I probably forced one down as it was the ritual that I liked. Watching the man rake the nuts across the grid, the warmth of the brazier and most of all being out after dark.

Being out after dark seemed so grown up. When my sister and I were thrown out of the Brownies, for disagreeing with Brown Owl, we found ourselves in the centre of Cambridge surrounded by street lights and illuminated shop windows. I can still remember the heady sense of freedom, heightened by the fact that we were out at night alone.

Finally, in my twenties, I nibbled a marron glacé one Christmas and fell helplessly in love. Sugar and chestnuts are a winning combination for me. A glimpse of beautifully packaged marrons still tempts me to do terrible things. I have eaten an entire box, without sharing. Or even feeling guilty.

When we saw men roasting chestnuts in Como last weekend, I decided to search for sweetened chestnut recipes on my return to England. I found five recipes for Chestnut Jam. Three Italian, two French. I couldn’t understand why there weren’t any more until we started to peel them. Only attempt this recipe if you are not rushing to put on the Sunday roast. Danny lost most of his nails and lasted 20 minutes of the 120 minute shelling session.

We studied the five recipes, and extracted the ingredients and method that we though would work best. I’m tired, it’s two in the morning and the Chestnut Jam is sublime. Having thought “never again” during the peeling stage, I’m now planning another batch.

It is a jam in that it’s spreadable. It is more of a delicious purée. It is probably just too special to spread on toast. Although I know that a spoonful of this would salve that 4 pm yearning for something sweet. This would be good in tiny pastry cases under a thinly sliced apple topping, or folded through whipped cream for an chic dessert.

If you have a glut of sweet chestnuts and want to store some, they can be frozen, complete or unshelled. Just put them in a freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible and freeze.

Sweet Chestnut Jam recipe


  • 1.5 kilos of fresh chestnuts (buy and prepare at least 1850 gms to allow for bad ones)
  • The zest of a large lemon
  • 800 gms white granulated sugar
  • I vanilla pod
  • 200 ml water
  • 100-200 ml rum (depending on taste. We used 200 ml)


  1. Shell the chestnuts carefully to avoid breaking the inner skin (see Tricks and tips below).
  2. Put them in a saucepan with the lemon zest. Cover with waterBring to the boil and simmer for an hour until soft.
  3. Remove chestnuts in small batches from the hot water, with a slotted spoon, and peel the inner skin. The nuts need to be warm to be peeled easily. Discard any hard of bad ones (these are much harder and dark inside).
  4. Press the soft husks through a sieve and set aside.
  5. In a clean saucepan slowly dissolve the sugar and water over a low heat. Stirring constantly.
  6. Add the vanilla pod and the sieved chestnuts. Bring to simmering point and simmer for twenty minutes. Stirring every now and then to stop the mixture burning on the base of the pan.
  7. After twenty minutes add the rum and simmer for a further ten minutes, string constantly.
  8. Remove the vanilla pod.
  9. Ladle into warm sterilised jars. Label when cold and store in a cool dry place.

Tips and tricks:

  • Buy more chestnuts than you need. We had to discard 250 gms out of the 1500 grms that we had bought at the first peeling stage.
  • We found that the best way to peel them was to insert a small knife carefully under the skin at the top of the nut and work down towards the base. If you can then remove the base the peeling process is much easier.
  • When the chestnuts have softened it’s easy to remove the skins if you snap the nuts in half, the skin should easily peel away. We found that the nuts that were still hard were the bad ones. Discard these as they would taint the good nuts.
  • Don’t try and skip the sieving. Bunging the chestnuts in the blender takes out the air and you need a light pile of sieved chestnuts to add to the syrup.

  Leave a reply


  1. farmingfriends

    Hi Cottage Smallholder,
    farmingfriends is very pleased to receive some of this jam and just can’t wait to try it. I think that having read this post I might just have to try it right now!
    thank you.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    We mix this with whipped cream and meringues as a desert. Yummy.

  3. Try cutting a little cross in the chestnut shell and boiling for 5 mins. Shells should come off easily.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Andy,

    That’s a great tip, thanks.

  5. Christine Marryat

    I’m making this delicious jam from your recipe for the second year running. Last year I introduced it to my neighbours in the little hamlet in the Charente France in which I live,although they use chestnuts frequently as a savory ingredient they had not tried it before as a sweet jam, they enjoyed it so much that this year I have been brought 10 kilos of the most beautiful glossy nuts and have now started on the marathon task of shelling ,skinning, sieving etc, so far in the first kilo I have only found 3 black nuts. However I would really like to know the best quantity of sugar to add to a given quantity of puree, some recipies say equal quantities . Last year I guessed and it tasted fine but didn’t keep well out of the fridge so I would be really pleased to have some advice.

  6. Rosie Whitmore

    I live in the Montagne Noire, near Carcassonne, where sweet chestnuts used to be the staple and kept both animals and villagers going throughout the winter. Chestnut jam is made in large quantities here and the favourite way to eat it, especially for the children, is to spread it on crepes. I’m currently translating several recipes given to me by the villagers. They dont seive their chestnuts. I write a monthly column for three magazines. Can I direct poeople to your website for recipes? Thankyou, Rosie Whitmore

  7. Stuart Mortimer

    Been looking for a recipe other than stuffing or cake so after an afternoon making the usual I found that I still had plenty left. Have tried this and found that it was indeed delicious even if it has taken a lot of manhours to make so I am off with the two boys to go and hunt for some more as it is well worth the effort

  8. Christine Marryat

    To Rosie Whitmore

    I would love to have your recipes for Chestnut Jam ,I would be happy to have them in French as I expect I will be able to translate them with my neighbours help. What magazines do you write for? Are they available on line? At the moment I’m busy making herb jellies using the Apple Jelly recipe on this site ,most sucessful and, once I had explained that you don’t usually spread sage jelly on biscotte , much enjoyed by the resipients.

  9. Does anyone know how to make the glacee chestnuts?
    I am definately trying this jam to use for christmas cookies, I think it will be unusual and delicious. Thanks for sharing your talents!

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Marybeth

    The chestnut jam is a bit of a palaver to make but it’s delicious. Great Idea using it for Christmas cookies.

    There’s a good recipe here for glacee chestnuts/marron glace

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