I think we are having a very good chestnut season this year. Normally we go into the forest two or three times during this period to forage all the chestnuts for the year. This time we only went out once and turned back halfway as we were fully packed and didn’t need (or could carry) more. At the same time the quality of the chestnuts is very good. They are big and barely a worm inside them.
Where in earlier years, due to scarcity, I tried to save the biggest part of the chestnuts for soups and purees, this year I decided to put aside a big part for making a batch of chestnut confiture. My first batch ever, from last years harvest, was a big success. People loved it. So it earned a place in my chestnut repertoire.
I want to share this recipe with you here, as I have a slightly different technique for making this confiture. But also, as I use a surprising ingredient which gives this confiture an extra taste dimension.
Boiling the chestnuts
Let me start by explaining how I prepare the chestnuts. I believe this is the most labor intensive and dreaded part for many people. I can’t give you a secret that will change this experience dramatically, but I can tell you what I find the most acceptable way of removing the chestnut flesh from its two outer layers.
After cleaning the chestnut with some water to remove all access soil, I place them in a pan with boiling water. I remove all chestnuts that float on top of the water and dispose of them. They are probably no good anyway. I then leave the rest to boil until I see a few chestnuts pop open in the water. They are a good indicator and show you that the chestnuts are ready.
Peeling the chestnuts
If I need whole chestnuts (for certain dishes) I peel the outer layers from the chestnuts while they are warm. It’s easier to do that while they are warm. But as I don’t need whole chestnuts for this recipe, I use a different and quicker technique for this.
I take a cutting board and a really sharp knife and carefully cut the bottom part of the chestnut as you can see above. I do that in batches. The bottoms are composted, knife set aside and I move on from here with only a spoon.
With a dessert spoon I spoon out the inside of the chestnut into a bowl. One after another. This will not give you whole chestnuts, but rather a crumbly wet flour like consistency in your bowl. It goes really fast though and you don’t have to bother with peeling the thin second layer of your chestnut. Which is the layer most people hate peeling off. And that’s basically it. After this step, you get rid of all the empty shells and start working on your confiture.
Recipe for the chestnut confiture
- 1 kg chestnuts + water mixture (after boiling)
- 500 gr sugar of which:
- 400 gr cane sugar
- 45 gr chestnut honey
- 45 gr regular honey
- 10 gr vanilla sugar
I first prepare the chestnuts. I place the peeled chestnuts into a pan and fill the pan up with cold water until the chestnuts are barely under water. Then I put on the fire and start boiling the mix on a low fire. It’s important to keep the fire low as the mixture will project hot chestnut puree at you if you let it boil too high and fast. It’s important not to forget stirring. You are aiming for a wet polenta like consistency in the end. And we all know what polenta does when it starts boiling.
After 15-20 minutes the water will be absorbed by the chestnuts. I then blend it to get rid of the last lumps of chestnut. You don’t want to over-blend it, but just till you get a regular consistency. It also doesn’t matter much what kind of blender you use, both a regular as well as a stick blender are ok.
I then weigh the mixture and based on the weight of that I adapt my sugar measurements. The general rule is 1kg of chestnut/water mixture to 500gr of “sugar”. If you don’t have (chestnut) honey or cane or vanilla sugar, regular sugar will be also ok. I do believe that the chestnut honey gives this chestnut confiture (a mono-flower honey) an extra dimension. My recipe is based around this ‘secret’ ingredient. The cane sugar also adds a bit more color to your finished product. But work with whatever you have.
Now I add the total of ‘sugars’ to the chestnut mix and start boiling it for one last time. This step goes faster than with most jams as there is little liquid that has to evaporate like with fruit jams. In my case this step only took max. 10 minutes. As soon as I see the consistency I want I start filling my prepared jars and close them off as regular jams. Once opened I store them in the fridge like regular jam.
NB: And in case you are wondering how my preparation differs from traditional preparation. French chestnut confiture is often made with a sugar/water sirup. The water is not mixed with the chestnuts, but with the sugar, before it’s mixed together.
How do you eat chestnut confiture
We eat the jam or confiture as a spread on bread or pancakes as shown below. I have French friends that like to put a spoon full in yoghurt. You can also make beautiful desserts with chestnut confiture and even delicious tarts. It’s a very versatile product to have in your pantry. You will have little trouble finishing it!