Sweet Chestnut Jam recipe. Storing sweet chestnutsPosted by Fiona Nevile in Jam Jelly and Preserves | 30 comments
I 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)
- Shell the chestnuts carefully to avoid breaking the inner skin (see Tricks and tips below).
- Put them in a saucepan with the lemon zest. Cover with waterBring to the boil and simmer for an hour until soft.
- 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).
- Press the soft husks through a sieve and set aside.
- In a clean saucepan slowly dissolve the sugar and water over a low heat. Stirring constantly.
- 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.
- After twenty minutes add the rum and simmer for a further ten minutes, string constantly.
- Remove the vanilla pod.
- 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.
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