Castañas en Almibar

Chestnuts In Syrup

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Fills

    Two

    1 litre

Appears in

MoVida Rustica

By Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

Published 2009

  • About

JUST BEFORE THEIR LEAVES TURN THE COUNTRYSIDE A PIERCING SHADE OF BURNT ORANGE, THE CHESTNUT TREES IN SPAIN RELEASE THEIR NUTS. FROM INSIDE A COARSE PRICKLY CASE COME A FEW SHINY CHESTNUTS, THE LAST REAL CROP OF ABUNDANCE BEFORE WINTER. WALK THE STREETS OF SPAIN WHEN THE AIR BEGINS TO CHILL AND THERE IS A CONSTANT FRAGRANT NOTE — THE AROMA OF CHESTNUTS ROASTING. FAST STREET FOOD IS FUN, BUT CHESTNUTS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS IN SPAIN. PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL OF POTATOES THEY WERE THE MAIN SOURCE OF WINTER STARCH, AND TO THIS DAY THE EXTRAMENANS AND GALICIANS STILL MAKE A SOUP OF CHESTNUTS AND PORK. PRESERVING CHESTNUTS IN SUGAR IS A WAY OF KEEPING THEM OVER THE WINTER. THIS RECIPE CREATES A LOVELY AROMATIC SYRUP THAT CAN BE SERVED WITH THE CHESTNUTS WITH CREPES (SEE RECIPE), WITH ICE CREAM OR STEWED FRUIT.

Ingredients

  • 1.8 kg (4 lb) fresh chestnuts
  • 500 g (1 lb. 2 oz/ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 vanilla bean

Method

Take each chestnut and, using a small sharp knife, make a cross-shaped incision in their flat side. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the chestnuts for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the chestnuts in the water. Using the blade of the knife, remove the outer skin. Remove the inner skin using a knife, or wipe it off with a clean cloth — the ease of removing the skin will depend on the age and variety of chestnut. Discard the skins.

Put the sugar in a large saucepan with 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) water. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon zest in wide strips and add these to the pan. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthways, then scrape the seeds into the pan. Discard the vanilla bean (or reserve for making vanilla sugar, if desired).

Bring the liquid to the boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peeled chestnuts. When the liquid starts to boil again, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and sterilise two 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) preserving jars and their lids and seals. Making sure the jars are still very warm, remove the chestnuts from the heat and transfer to the jars using a sterilised slotted spoon, filling the jars evenly. Pour in the syrup and seal while still hot. Allow to cool, then store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Once opened, the chestnuts will keep, refrigerated, for 2–3 weeks.