It's hard to imagine the Christmas season without chestnuts…
At least since 1946, when America was introduced to “The Christmas Song”! Those holiday lyrics — sung by the likes of Nat “King” Cole and Judy Garland — inspire many of us to take on the challenge of eating chestnuts each year.
Chestnuts are nostalgic and lovely, yet they are so hard to prepare and peel! Lovers of tradition still roast their chestnuts over an open fire.
Is that the best way?
How I Came To Love Chestnuts
During my senior year of college, I traveled in Venice, Italy, with my parents.
There we found a street vendor, selling black chestnuts that looked like they'd been roasting on the open grill for hours. We purchased them warm and soft, and ate them out of a paper sack as we wandered the streets and bridges.
Those chestnuts melted in our mouths. And the skins slipped right off — each and every one!
How could I replicate such a simple delicacy at home?
The Secret To Easy-To-Peel Chestnuts
I read that most street vendors boil their chestnuts before roasting them, so that's what I did too. First, I bought local chestnuts, then boiled them in my Instant Pot.
And that's the secret… When chestnuts are boiled before roasting, they soften enough to make an easy ‘X'-shaped cut in their bellies. Most recipes require a special knife to cut the ‘X' in raw chestnuts.
I also experimented with roasting the nuts. A good oven roasting does a beautiful job — better than bottom heat alone can provide. The cut portion of the chestnuts bursts open, making them easier to peel. The nuts also get dark and toasty-flavored.
Although not quite as easy to peel as the chestnuts in Italy (perhaps many hours of slow-roasting would do that trick! 😉 ), this process makes quite the difference!
For the occasional stubborn chestnut that sticks to its shell, my family uses seafood tools to easily separate the meat.
Since fall arrived, I've made about 5 pounds of easy-to-peel chestnuts in the Instant Pot. My kids gobble them up with pleasure, and we love sitting around, chatting and nibbling on this seasonal treat!
Easy-To-Peel Chestnuts In The Instant Pot
- 1 to 2 pounds chestnuts
- Place 4 cups water into insert pot of pressure cooker.
- Add chestnuts.
- Put on the lid of your cooker, checking that the seals and all components are in good shape, including being in the sealing position.
- If using an electric cooker, set to high for 15 minutes.
- If using a stove-top cooker, bring to high pressure and maintain pressure for a cook time of 15 minutes.
- Once cycle is complete, if using an electric cooker, let pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
- With a stove-top cooker, remove from heat and let sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.
- Place a towel over the pressure release knob and allow pot to do a quick pressure release.
- When pressure is released, open lid.
- Pour contents into a stainless steel colander.
- Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place chestnuts onto large cutting board.
- With a paring knife, cut a medium-size 'X' on the flat side of each nut. Each cut should be about ⅓ to ½ of an inch in length. Do not worry about piercing the flesh.
- Place chestnuts on large cookie sheet and transfer to the oven.
- Bake 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. (Do not cover while cooling, as this makes them harder to peel.)
Do you have any traditions involving chestnuts? Do they grow locally in your area?
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