Enjoying roasted chestnuts day
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir.
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”
– The Christmas Song by Mel Torme / Robert Wells
Once again, I am referring to Good Housekeeping’s list of December days of celebration, and have chosen December 14th – Roast Chestnuts Day.
The name “chestnut” has a multi-cultural lineage beginning with ancient Greece, moving into France and England, with European explorers finally bringing their variety to North America.
The American chestnut was a staple of the indigenous peoples, but a blight came along with the Europeans, and nearly wiped out the American species.
The chestnut is a true nut which means, in botanical terminology, “Dry fruit, grown on trees, that has a single seed, a hard shell, and a protective husk, is a nut; this includes chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts.”
Chestnuts are low in fat, high in Vitamin C, and contain antioxidants which help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Good news for diabetics, and better news is that they are high in fiber, and help balance blood sugar levels.
By the way, they are low in calories too. Sounds like the perfect snack, right? Yes, they are, but they must be cooked, either by boiling or roasting as raw chestnuts contain tannic acid.
Tannic acid is known to cause, in some people, stomach irritation, nausea, and kidney and liver issues which may lead to severe disease.
Tis the season to see displays of various food items, only available during the holidays.
While raw chestnuts are becoming more difficult to come by, a packaged product, Galil Roasted Chestnuts, might be a substitute.
It is a product from China that is 100% organic, no preservatives, shelled and ready to eat, or use in a recipe.
Looking at the photo on the package, it reminded me of childhood days of oven roasted chestnuts; peeling off the tough outer shell and papery interior coating, hoping not to get splinters.
All that work to get to the sweet, buttery soft nugget inside.
Unfortunately, here comes my warning about the product, what you see on the package is most definitely not what you will find in the package.
The chestnuts are a dull grey color, wet with a slight slimy feel to them; that lovely brown color is only on the packaging.
I was brave though and tried one; surprisingly it had that strong chestnut flavor that comes from oven roasting.
It is recommended that the product be refrigerated after opening. The next day was another taste test; the wet sliminess was gone and the full flavor was still there.
Personally, they will take time getting used to snacking on due to the grey color; it is very unappetizing to look at.
While these were the only packaged chestnuts I found in a supermarket, online shopping will provide more variety.
Another use for these chestnuts would be in a soup, either for a holiday meal, or just for a cold, wintery warmup.
The packages are 3.5 ounces, so four packages would be needed for the soup recipe I am sharing with you.
Ingredients: 3 Tbsp. butter, 1 large leek, white part only, chopped and washed, 1/2 cup each of diced celery and carrot, 3 Tbsp. flour, 1 tsp. crushed thyme leaves, 1/2 cup half n’ half, 6 cups vegetable broth, 4 (3.5 oz) bags roasted chestnuts, 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/4 tsp. each nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper
In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat; sauté’ leeks, celery and carrots until the leeks become translucent. Add in flour, thyme and half n’ half; bring to a boil and stir till thickened. Add in broth, chestnuts, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes; stir occasionally.
Using an immersion blender, or transferring to a tabletop blender, process soup until smooth.
Note: toppings such as a drizzle of sour cream, cracked black and red pepper, or crumbled bacon can be served with the soup.
Makes 8 servings.