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Dec 2, 2010 11:18 AM

Please help me with roasted chestnuts-How do you get the fuzzy lining off? I just threw 3 pound in the garbage!

I love roasted chestnuts and I am USUALLY a very good chef, so I decided to make some. I could NOT get the fuzzy lining off the nuts! I bought a chestnut cross-cutter because I had such a hard time cutting the "x" in the raw nuts. I roasted them in the oven because I do not have a chestnut pan with the holes, and do not plan to buy it. I tried so hard to get the fuzzy part off the nuts. Finally, I just threw them out. Clearly I did something very wrong because when I buy them roasted, they peel easily. Please tell me how to cook the chestnuts so that the fuzzy part slips off and the nuts are sweet and roasted. Thank you.

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  1. What method did you use? If you do a websearch for "roasted chestnut recipes", you'll find plenty of tips. Frankly, I've never had a problem peeling them at all after roasting. Am thinking you either didn't roast them long enough or didn't have them at the right temperature, or both.

    How sad that you lost your cool & just threw 3 pounds of them in the garbage. They could have been salvaged. At the very least you could have tossed them outside for the squirrels.

    Good cooking is frequently 10% skill & 90% patience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Breezychow

      I am patient. I thought I had ruined them. I love animals. I didn't think of giving them to squirrels or I would have!
      I baked them for 30 minutes at 325. I did an internet search. I thought I had maybe over-baked them. That is why I tossed them. I assumed they were ruined. Please tell me YOUR method. No offense, but you did not offer ANY help at all. At least you could have ended with what YOU do to roast them correctly to be helpful.

    2. After you roast them, put them in a bowl covered in a tea towel and let them sit for 10-15 minutes to steam. This should help with the skins sticking.

      2 Replies
      1. re: principessa del pisello

        Thank you for being helpful. How long and at what temperature do you suggest? There are so many different web-posts with so many different temperatures and times. May I ask what method you take?

        1. re: hungryinmanhattan

          Try the steaming after roasting method as outlined the principessa, that usually works for me. I say usually, because I have spent hours peeling them with a sharp paring knife, after roasting, regardless of steaming, cursing myself. Chestnuts are a labor of love, the fresher the better, that's my real tip here; Italian, Chinese, doesn't seem to matter. I think you roasted them for about the correct time, but I would have had my oven at 425°. Did you turn them? They need to be rotated, one by one, especially if you're roasting a quantity, about half way through cooking, and they should be in a single layer in roasting pan. I stir or shake mine every 10 minutes or so, to faciliate even roasting. When stirring you can't be guaranteed that all the chestnust will have flipped over properly, so do turn them as well.

          I saw a bag in my local market two weeks ago, haven't had them in awhile, mm-m, thought about it, and put them back, lol. Maybe next year.

          Anyway, try again, you'll get it to work at some point and, if you love chestnuts, which you admitted to, the results will be worth the effort.

      2. I've had the same problem many times after trying several different methods. Don't remember exactly which now since I gave up a few years ago, though I do know I followed the instructions exactly (some involved boiling or steaming, some roasting in the oven). And I am a patient cook as well who spends lots of time on complicated procedures.

        Plus it ruins what's left of my fingernails, and I don't get manicures....

        Now I buy them vacuum packed..expensive, yes, but sure saves time and waste.

        1. This isn't completely on target, in that it doesn't help you deal with fuzzy parts that won't come off no matter what you do, but it may well be that the fault is in the nut itself - it may have been quite old and dried out before you even bought it. They often are. My husband, a Brit with fond memories of hot roasted chestnut, says about half that he has bought in California aren't worth trying to roast and eat. Try to get good firm ones, that don't rattle, preferably Italian, and watch out for the Chinese ones.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Marsha

            My batch from Italy this year was a pound of living hell. My chinese from earlier years were a breeze. I haven't figured it out.

            1. re: Marsha

              +1 on Marsha's comments about chestnut quality. I've been buying and roasting chestnut for over 10 years, and have seen a steady decline in quality. This year I bought mine from a very high end grocery store in Minneapolis that has high turnover. I scored and roasted the chestnuts less than 5 days after purchase, and had to throw at least 25% away because of green mold - not spots, mind you, but where at least half the chestnut was covered, and the interior was compromised.

              In the past, I've also had whole batches where the "fuzzy" membrane was impossible to remove, even though I've been roasting chestnuts the same way for 10 years - around 350 degrees (anywhere from 425 to 325 is fine - it's a chestnut, not brain surgery), score an X in the flatish side (yes, I'm always afraid I'm going to lose a finger in the process. Here, a knife with an excellent point is essential), and roast for anywhere from 15 minutes to 35 minutes, depends on the temperature. You know you're done when the edges of the X curl up. Don't go too far past that point, though.

              All of this being said, even when I do the same thing year in and year out, results vary. And, because this isn't rocket science, I attribute it completely to variation in the quality of the chestnuts you get. Don't automatically assume you're doing something wrong. If you're a marginally competent cook, and your chestnuts suck, blame it on the quality of the starting product, not your technique. And unfortunately, I don't know that there's an easy and reliable way of telling a good nut from a bad one (to a large extent, anyway).

              1. re: foreverhungry

                Quiet progress is happening to develop blight resistant chestnut plants stateside. Every chestnut tree in America was killed in a blight in 1905, and only a few root systems lived to regenerate decades later. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station took the initiative to restore the species, and my family contributed land for its project in Hamden, almost 60 years ago, on Chestnut Lane, of course, at the base of Sleeping Giant Mountain. Have a little patience, we will again have domestic chestnuts within 50 years. My family has access to the drops, and not everybody knows that chestnut pods are like porcupines growing on trees. Nice memories gathering and roasting them in a pan under the andiron in the fireplace, with butter and salt.

                1. re: Veggo

                  That's a nice story, Veggo; good on the beautiful state of CT and your family's part for taking on the task of restoration. I have been to Sleeping Giant a few times, but sadly will most likely not be around in 50 years for the US chestnut tree resurgence. I remember my father, who worked in the US agricultural field for years, telling me about the devastating turn of century chestnut blight when I was a young, back in the 60's.

                  We had beautiful wood flooring in our house in Norwichtown, CT from the mighty chestnut, gathered (I believe) a few centuries before the blight.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    I thank you all for the replies. I bet my nuts were not fresh, because they did shake/rattle a bit. I MAY try 1 more time and will turn each individually and cover and steam at the end as suggested. . Wish there were a way to tell if they are fresh. I believe they were supposed to be italian. Is there a certain month when chestnuts are typically harvested? Is it too late in the season to get fresh nuts? When I go to the store it looks like the same batch of nuts sitting there week after week! Obviously I have no way of knowing if they have been replenished. I am nervous that most grocers get them for thanksgiving, so they may all be old by now. What do you think?

                    1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                      I think you could ask your grocer, or whoever us in the aisle straightening out the lettuce and carrots - chances are he won't know, but be persistent and he might try to find out from somebody else. I think I'd take the reply with a grain of salt, however; last week I was informed by my grocer than a certain product was no longer made, when it turns out they just stopped carrying it. Caveat emptor!

                      1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                        some tips & info from right here on CH that may help you with selecting, storing and preparing:

                        and the final lesson of the day that no one has mentioned yet...even when you fear the results of your kitchen efforts are beyond salvation, ALWAYS come to your fellow Hounds for help *before* you toss whatever it is - you just never know!

                    2. re: Veggo

                      A confirmed American Chestnut tree which survived the blight was found a few months ago in the southern part of Shelton, CT. The DNA testing confirmed it.

                      The Ag people are collecting what they collect & hopefully this will contribute to the restoration of a wonderful tree.

                      PS. Chestnut wood was used in railroad ties which have a normal lifetime of 30 years or so, these suckers were over 60 years old & still good! Also, old barns were sided with chestnut in many cases and so recycled barn siding has become a prized commodity when refinished as flooring.

                2. Both chestnuts that are too old and also that are too fresh can be a problem. I just bought chestnuts fresh from a grove in the Santa Cruz mountains, and they said to let the chestnuts 'cure' by letting them dry, spread out at room temperature, until there's a 'give' to the shell. In other words, letting the nuts inside shrink a bit. So if I were buying chestnuts at a store, I would feel for the ones that were either tight (fresh, let them cure before using) or had a little give (just right) but avoid ones that rattled (too old, more likely to be dry).

                  And then there are the moldy ones, yuck! All I can say about that is try to buy them fresh in the fall (Oct- early Dec) and don't store them for very long before cooking. If you cook them right away and they're moldy, take them back and complain.

                  I used to think that just making a slash was sufficient for letting out the steam, but I've had better luck when I've taken the time to make an X. I don't know if that's real or not. But the curled back edges do make it easier to start peeling.

                  Chestnuts only peel well while hot/very warm, so don't try to do them in big batches, and be sure to keep them warm while working on them.

                  While I love roasted chestnuts, I have the most trouble with that method. Microwaving them works surprisingly well, though. Just 1-2 minutes is usually enough. Some people suggest cutting an X then soaking them in water for 30 minutes before microwaving. I haven't experimented to see how much of a difference that makes.

                  Simmering in water works too and makes the shells soft which can be easier on the fingers, though if the fuzzy skins are inclined to stick, they're really sticky. Boiling them for 10-20 minutes is usually enough.

                  Or for a really yummy version, follow Marcella Hazen's recipe for chestnuts in red wine. She has you simmer a pound of them for an hour in 1 c red wine, a pinch of salt, and two bay leaves. I used about 2/3 c red wine and 1/3 c sweet vermouth, which was delicious! Btw, she swears by making a single slit, but doing it 2/3rds of the way around the nut!

                  Good luck! Chestnuts are delicious, even though frustrating.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                    Karen, only 1-2 minutes for raw chestnuts?

                    1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                      Yes, just 1-2 minutes really is enough to be able to peel them. Though you will probably want to use them in a recipe where they get cooked some more after peeling.