This chestnut spread did not turn out as expected. In fact, I thought it was going to be a creamy vanilla white colour with a smooth peanut butter like texture but instead it is a crunchy, crumbly, sugary spread that is more like a nut topping than a spreadable jam. At first, I thought it was a complete failure but Matt assures me “all is not lost…it has great flavour and will add something special to coffee cake.” Phew…I feel much better!
The chunky texture may have something to do with the freshness of the chestnuts or this may just be the nature of the nut. But, like so many recipes with few components, the success or failure comes down to selecting the freshest ingredients and putting them up as soon as you get them. I suspect these chestnuts sat around the store for a month longer than they should have. Even as I was shelling them I found several that were spoiled.
This recipe comes from Christine Ferber’s book Mes Confitures and I modified it slightly to add a little citrus and some hootch (rum), two flavours that compliment the natural sweetness of chestnuts.
RECIPE FOR CHESTNUT SPREAD:
- 2 3/4 pounds chestnuts, or 1 3/4 pounds net
- 4 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I think it’s a bit too much sugar and it may be nice to cut the sugar back and use some chestnut honey as well)
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean (I used an organic bourbon vanilla bean)
- zest of 1 orange (I juice the orange and keep a bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice in the fridge to use in other preserving projects)
- 4 tbsp of rum (I used Angostura 1919. It is a sweet rum that reminds me of cotton candy)
- Make a deep cut in each chestnut (from the top to the bottom) with the point of a knife to cut through its two skins. Put chestnuts in boiling water. After 3 minutes, you will be able to remove the outer shell and the inner skin. The chestnuts are relatively easy to peel if they are hot but once they cool off the inner skin becomes very difficult to remove. Do this step in stages or with a friend only boiling a handful of chestnuts at a time so that you can quickly remove the two skins before they cool down.
- In a preserving pan, combine the chestnuts, sugar, water, and vanilla bean, split lengthwise. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring gently. The chestnuts will be soft. Pour the mixture into a ceramic bowl. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.
- Next day, bring this preparation to a boil, stirring constantly. Note: My mixture was rock solid, the sugar had crystalized, and the chestnuts were very hard (it may have been overcooked the day before or my fridge too cold). Skim if need be.
- Crush the large pieces of chestnut with a wooden spoon. Remove the vanilla bean while crushing or blending the nuts. Again, the chestnuts were too hard (even after heating) to crush with a spoon. The mixture was transferred into the cuisinart to break into fine pieces.
- Add the orange zest and rum to the mixture. Combining well.Continue cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Cooking for 10 minutes was unnecessary as my mixture was already thick and well set (for this reason, I believe it was overcooked the day before). I reheated it so that it would be hot when it was ladled into the sterilized jars.
- Remove the vanilla bean and cut a piece to go into each jar. Ladle hot spread into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace, wipe rims, place lid and ring to finger tip tight on each jar and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid and let stand for 5 minutes before removing jars. Check seal, label, and store.
This is not a recipe I will be attempting to perfect now or any time in the future. Chestnuts are relatively expensive and the initial preparation of this spread is time-consuming and difficult. Initially, I was curious about creating this jam/spread as it was unusual and used ingredients that we can only get at this time of year. For now, I’ve satisfied my curiosity. This experiment may be worth repeating if, and only if, you have a glut of nuts that you can get for free and can spend an afternoon doing the tedious job of shelling them with a friend.
Put up Total:
- 5 x 250mL regular mouth mason jars
- Plus, 1 x 250 (2/3 full and unprocessed)
Side Note: this is more for my records than anything else…Jarred the 4th Batch of Fermented Sauerkraut (19lbs).
Put up Total:
- 1 x 1L regular mouth mason jar
- 6 x 1L wide mouth mason jars
- Plus, 500mL unprocessed and refrigerated