GETTING SOME CHESTNUT FLOUR which has no GLUTEN for your GNOCCHI, PASTA or BAKERY GOODS would be lovely. Chestnuts are a rare treat. As a kid we roasted them on top of the stove in a heavy skillet. They'd explode like small dynamite sticks until we learned to knife a hole in each before heating.
I remember being in PARIS and looking everywhere for at least ONE thing I could afford. MARRON GLACES, one box, was about to be IT when it started raining and I had to quick change horses. I bought rubber rain boots instead. So I still haven't tasted a marron glace.
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Chestnuts have long played an important part in the Mediterranean diet:
Homer mentions chestnuts, and Pliny even says which kinds of chestnuts were
grown in Southern Italy. With time chestnut cultivation spread throughout
the peninsula, because they were one of the few food crops that could be
grown on steep mountain slopes, and also one of the few crops that could be
expected to provide sustenance through the long winter months: By the
middle ages were the staple food of the peasants in large parts of Italy,
from Piemonte to Lazio and on down. In some areas, for example Tuscany's
Lunigiana and Lucchesia, much of the economy revolved around the chestnut
crop, which people gathered in the fall and worked long into the winter to
sort, process, package and sell. Then, come spring, it was time to tend the
chestnut groves again. It was backbreaking work, so it's also small wonder
that with improving economic conditions the majority of Italy's chestnut
farmers sought out other jobs.
For those who remained this has provided a bonanza - chestnuts are tasty
and nutritious (indeed, the aristocracy never disdained them they way they
did some other staples of the poor), and now that it's a seller's market
prices have soared. Though a chestnut connoisseur will be able to point out
a half-dozen or more varieties of chestnut, what's sold in Italian markets
comes in two shades: castagne, which are generally small (an inch or so
high and often fairly flat sided) and marroni, which are voluptuously
rounded, firm, and larger - up to an inch and a half high, and with a
wondrously distended front.
During a recession, they'd be a great crop to grow, if you can find one
that would work in our climate. CHESTNUT FLOUR is desired by folks allergic
to gluten and goes for 12$ a lb!
In selecting chestnuts (and this is especially true if you live where they
are imported), trust your eyes. Their skins should have a healthy glow, and
a beautiful brown shine. If they look dim or mottled they may have mold -
pass them by. They should also be firm and feel solid, with no air between
the skin and the underlying flesh - wizened nuts may be old. Finally, the
skins should be blemish free. In particular, look for pinholes, which
likely mean worms.
Once you have your chestnuts you have to decide what to do with them. One
of the easiest and tastiest options is to roast them. Some country
households had terracotta colanders they'd fill with chestnuts and settle
into the coals, while others used lidded iron pans with holes cut into
them, mounted on long handles (a popcorn popper lined with tinfoil that has
holes punched through it would be a good substitute). If you lack a
fireplace and cannot find a chestnut roasting pan (they're sold by a number
of mail order outfits) I suggest you purchase a cheap, thin steel skillet
(non-stick surfaces are not necessary here) and punch about a dozen holes
into the bottom with a thick nail. Before roasting your chestnuts make a
cut into the round side of each to keep it from exploding. Put the
chestnuts into the roaster, sprinkle them lightly with water, and cook them
over brisk heat for 10-20 minutes (depending upon their size), shaking them
frequently to keep them from burning. When they're done the skins will have
pulled back from the nuts, and the nutmeats will be firm but fork-tender -
charred spots indicate insufficient shaking. Sprinkle them with a few drops
of red wine (if you want), wrap them in an old cloth, squeeze them until
they crackle, and let them sit in a warm place for five minutes. Peel back
the cloth and enjoy! Few things are more pleasant that sitting around a
fire with friends while eating roasted chestnuts and sipping a light wine
such as Vino Novello or Beaujolais Nouveau (its French equivalent).
Don't have a roasting pan and don't want to sacrifice a regular pan, or
don't have a gas stove? You can also roast chestnuts in the oven: Preheat
your oven to 425 F (210 C), and make cuts in the round sides of the nuts.
Arrange the chestnuts either on an oven rack or on a cookie sheet and roast
them until the skins have pulled back from the cuts and the nutmeats have
softened (exactly how long will depend upon the chestnuts, but at least
15-20 minutes. Wrap them as above and let them sit in a warm place briefly,
and then enjoy them.
Roasted! Of course, in the past the farmers who survived on chestnuts
didn't sit around the fire roasting them, though some of their crop
certainly did meet that end. The rest went into a drying hut, whose design
(and name) varied from region to region; it was generally a small two story
building, and come harvest time they would light a fire in the ground floor
room. Directly above the fire was a stone heat shield to protect the beams
supporting the second floor, which was spread with the chestnut crop; the
heat rose and dried out the chestnuts, while the smoke that filtered up
killed the worms that do get into chestnuts and might otherwise have eaten
their way through the harvest. The fire was never allowed to go out, and on
chill nights the farmers and their families would gather in the fire room
to enjoy the warmth and pass the time, swapping stories and telling tales.
Dried chestnuts can either be boiled, ground up into flour, or used as
ingredients in other dishes.
http://www.chestnutsonline.com/ flour is 12$ an lb. SO probably you want to
make your own. Roast, split them open, husk, dry, then grind in a mill of
some kind. Small molinex Coffee grinder would do it. Vita mix would too.
Then make BAKERY GOODS.
PAL TOLD ME: Go to http://www.delmarvelouschestnuts.com. They are on the DelMarVa peninsula. Not the race track in California but still. Chestnuts grown right here in the USA!! I haven't bought from them, so I can't vouch for service. Also, I note that the huge Korean market in my town has them in packets, peeled and ready to eat, in the snack food aisle, imported from China for about a buck. I don't buy them anymore if imported from China. "
GROWING CHESTNUTS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Chestnut
Read that, you'll see about the famous blight that destroyed east coast's
chestnuts, with only a few, isolated trees surviving.
You can buy trees that are chinese chestnut hybridized with american chestnut and crossed
with hazel nuts http://www.badgersett.com/plants/
Fascinating HISTORY OF THE BLIGHT
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