I certainly never realized what a minefield harvesting your own Chestnuts can be. Starting with the oh-so-prickly outside shells, which we did realise over time that they will open themselves (eventually) and, in fact, right now most of them are falling out of their prickly casings as they hit the ground. The partially open ones you can actually finish off with the edge of a Wellington boot, thus saving little fingers and paws from danger.
Now they are falling out as they hit the ground we have another issue – beating the squirrels to them! An early morning walk, after feeding the horse and chicken, usually gets us a bag full of nice big ones. I leave the smaller ones for the squirrels.
We have been doing this for a couple of weeks now and must have collected 2-300 large Chestnuts, but a few days Avon started noticing that some were going moldy and soft. I threw those away, washed all the others and spread them on the dining table, on newspaper, to dry. Once dry I put them in a wicker basket, but a couple of days later yet more were going moldy and soft.
Google is great, but you can get so many differing opinions on things, especially relatively obscure things like this that it can be difficult to get a straightforward answer. So, many more articles later I came across a site run by a chestnut company (yes, they exist!) who recommended not keeping freshly picked Chestnuts for more than a few days as they can go moldy.
They did explain that if you have a proper drying room, as they do, then the mold problem ceases to be, but for most folks roasting them within a few days of picking is highly recommended. After they have cooled, you can bag them up and keep them in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, even in the freezer if you are going to use them to cook with. Yay – sound advice at last! So my morning was spent sorting through the Chestnuts yet again and making a cut through the skin across the “tail” to allow steam to escape (and avoid messy explosions in the oven!); preheating th oven to 350F and placing them all on a parchment covered baking sheet in the lower part of the oven. Their guidelines said start at 10 minutes and work your way up from there. Mine ended up being closer to 30.
The finished tray so roasted chestnuts; now all I have to do is get them out of their shells and remove the brown skin on the outside of the nut. I think it will take me a while….