How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire
How to Roast Chestnuts On an Open Fire
The American chestnut (Castenea dentata) tree once graced the woods of the eastern side of North America. Unfortunately, a fungal disease (blight) was introduced on an imported chestnut tree from Asia. The American chestnut, with no natural resistance to the fungus, succumbed to the disease. Today, only a handful of American chestnut trees remain in the wild.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours brought me some “American chestnuts” that he was really proud of. I was very interested – if he had an American chestnut tree, that would mean it was most likely resistant to blight, and it would be an awesome seed source for us. What could be cooler (to a horticulture nerd) than a local American chestnut source and Legg Creek Farm selling American chestnut trees across the country?
But those things that are too good to be true are just that – and it turned out, upon inspection of the nuts themselves and talking to the gentleman about the tree, that the nuts we received were Chinese chestnuts. It turns out that the man had planted the tree 60 years ago. And, though the decades had probably fogged his memory, he had most likely planted a Chinese chestnut tree as a replacement for a dead American chestnut.
We were still really grateful for the nuts, and we decided to roast them, over an open fire. And yeah, we know it’s not Christmas
So here’s how to roast chestnuts (American, Chinese, or whatever kind you can find; this also applies to chinquapin nuts) over an open fire:
1) I always envision this song when I think of roasting chestnuts – idyllic, with romantic partners lounging by an indoor fire place. To make it interesting, we did this outside (with just a few nuts – saving some for later!), so we built a fire.
2) We took the chestnuts and cut them on the side with an “X” – I’m told that if the nuts are roasted without that, they will explode (note to self: try this).
3) The chestnuts were placed in a small cast-iron skillet inside of a fire pit on a patio. The fire had burned to some nice coals so we set it between some smoldering logs on either side with the coals beneath it.
4) In decent heat, chestnuts roast in 15-20 minutes. I stirred the chestnuts every few minutes to make sure they were evenly roasted. I could hear them crackle and I could see the yellowish nutmeat start to swell and the shells start to split open as they got close to being done.
5) After about 20 minutes, the nuts looked done. The shells had opened at the place where I scored them and I could smell the chestnuts roasting! Time to take them off the fire!
6) I left the nuts in the skillet (off the fire) for a few more minutes, and then removed them. They were hot!
7) Once they cooled a little, it was time to crack them.
8) Once they were cooled enough, we ate them!
I’m told that roasted chestnuts dipped in a mixture of butter and cinnamon and sugar tastes exceptional (but almost anything dipped in butter and cinnamon and sugar tastes amazing).
I’ve eaten raw chestnuts before and I can definitely say that the flavor of the roasted chestnut was far superior to the raw taste. This is definitely worth doing if you have some chestnuts and it was simple to do over an open fire outside. The same process could be applied to chinquapin nuts, though I am guessing the cook time would be less.
Let us know your thoughts and comments below! Happy roasting!