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How to keep chestnuts

How to sort chestnuts, how to keep them fresh in the refrigerator, naturally sterilised, dried, turned into flour…

Chestnuts are a delicious fruit that is making a big comeback in gastronomy. It is an ingredient and a complement that is so rich in flavour that is would be a pity to deny yourself the pleasure, especially if there are some chestnut trees near you.


Do I have the right to gather chestnuts?

Find out. In principle, you are not allowed to gather chestnuts in the forest! In practice, if you are out for a Sunday stroll and you gather a handful of chestnuts, nobody will say anything. Try not to go overboard, however, in particular if you come across a magnificent chestnut grove in which there are no dead branches and the chestnuts are three times bigger than anywhere else, then you are surely on a grower´s land… Some growers offer the opportunity to fill baskets, so why not take advantage of that.



Sorting

To remove bad fruit, fill a basin and steep the chestnuts in the water. Any chestnuts that float are to be thrown away! The flesh is what gives them weight. If it has been eaten by worms or is underdeveloped, the chestnut will float.


Preserving

Feel free to leave the chestnuts in a bath to remove any parasites that may still be present. Professionals keep them in water for 5 to 8 days before the water content is returned to normal by leaving them to dry for 10 days in the air. After the bath, your chestnuts will keep very well in the fridge.


How to keep them fresh

When you have peeled your chestnuts, they will dry quickly, especially in the fridge. To keep their softness and flavour, keep them in a vacuum in the fridge or freeze bags of chestnuts. Vacuum sealed, they will keep a pleasant texture.


How to dry them

Professionals dry them with the skin and then peel them using a machine. At home, you may as well peel them before drying them. Chestnuts contain just 40 % water, or a little more after steeping, but the density of the flesh does not encourage evaporation. Dry them slowly, at a low temperature, stirring regularly.


To keep them dry

If you choose to preserve your chestnuts in jars to use them whenever you want throughout the year, do not use jars that are too big. The ideal thing is to pack the fruit when warm, and to close the jar immediately. Remember that each time you open the jar, moist air will enter it…
The best solution is to place your dried fruit in vacuum sealed bags. In the absence of oxygen and water, well protected from the outside elements, your chestnuts will keep for a long time.


Making flour

Add body to a sauce, enrich a purée of vegetables or a cake, add perfume to a soup... chestnut flour has a thousand uses. In many cases, it can replace conventional flour. It is even better fresh and if you have a domestic cereal mill, you can mill your chestnuts in the same way you would wheat or corn. Use broken pieces first and make sure that they are dry to avoid soiling the mills. Chestnut flour can be kept in a vacuum like coffee and will retains all its aromas and richness.


Naturally sterilised

Pell your chestnuts without forgetting the second layer of skin and pack them tightly in a jar. Add one or two soup spoons of water and place the jars in a steriliser on full power for 90 minutes. Keep your jars in a dark place.


TIPS

The tuft (flame): Do not remove the little tuft at the tip of the chestnut. This ""flame"" should be conserved to close the door against parasites.
Peeling : Make a large incision in the rounded part and boil for 3 to 5 minutes. A spoon of oil in the water will make it more supple.

Chestnut recipe
What you should know about chestnuts


Sources:
Federal research institute WSL CH-8903 Birmensdorf
Comité Interprofessionnel de la Chataîgne d´Ardèche
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