Chestnuts bring back pleasant memories from my youth. During the Christmas Season my family and I would travel to New York City. We would always check out the glorious sights in the picture windows at Macy’s jam packed with model trains decorated with fantastic winter scenery. As we ventured past the picture windows we would stop and buy snack size bags filled with roasted chestnuts sold at almost every corner. They would warm our hands and fill our bellies. Then we would stop at Rockefeller Center and watch the ice scatters, finally ending or evening at Radio City Music Hall to take in their Christmas Special.
Enough of old memories.
All about Chestnuts
Chestnut harvest typically takes place in September and October; the nuts are more prevalent in stores in November and December during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday season. You might see them fresh still in their spiny armor, or already peeled down to the hard nut layer. Street vendors in New York and other cities sell snack-size bags of roasted, steamed, or boiled chestnuts from carts in tourist-heavy areas
Chestnut Flavor and Texture
The mild flavor of chestnuts makes them versatile for both sweet and savory dishes. The texture of a chestnut resembles that of a potato: a bit crunchy and bitter when raw, cooked chestnuts turn buttery and sweet. The flavor is reminiscent of a sweet potato. They can be added to soups and stews, baked goods, and dishes from stuffing to pasta.
Chestnuts are often sold fresh during the winter months, making them a popular holiday treat. Fresh chestnuts can be roasted, steamed, boiled, deep fried, or even microwaved. Always score the skin of fresh chestnuts before cooking them to allow steam to escape and prevent them from exploding.
Because fresh chestnuts contain a high percentage of water, they are more perishable than most nuts. Keep them refrigerated in an airtight container until you're ready to use them. If you buy them directly from the producer shortly after harvest, they will last for a few months in proper storage conditions. Chestnuts from the grocery store probably spent some time in the open air and began "curing," or losing some of their moisture. While this actually makes for better eating, the nuts become more perishable as they dry. Refrigerate store-bought chestnuts promptly and use them within a few weeks. Fresh chestnuts can also be frozen for up to six months.