We are into the chestnuts season once again. This year, I was Johnny-on-the-spot and pre-ordered them. I got North American Chestnuts from Girolami farm as before (#1 in the picture below). As I mentioned in last year’s post on chestnuts, it is wonderful to know some North American chestnuts trees survived the chestnut blight. American chestnuts, unlike Japanese chestnuts have a brown skin that goes deep into the nut. It is extremely bitter and unpleasant if left in the nut. But it is also very difficult to remove. Last year was a series of trial and error to come up with the best way to peel both the outer and inner skins (Onikawa 鬼皮and Shijukawa 渋皮, respectively. I finally found the secret. I peel the chestnut while it is still hot and the brown skin just lifts out. If you wait until it cools it is impossible to remove. This method, however, while successful, requires asbestos fingers.
This year I am providing some visual aids.The chestnuts came in a net bag (1 lb). I soaked them in water for several hours and then boiled them gently for 15-20 minutes (counting the time after the water came to the boil). I let it sit and cool down a bit–for 20-30 minutes. I scooped the chestnuts out of the water using a slotted spoon 3-4 at a time. While still very warm, I sliced off the flat bottom part using a sharp paring knife (#2). I kept peeling the outer skin by pulling it up from the initial cut (#3). Then, just tugging gently on the inner skin, it came off easily even from deep within the crevices (#4), Some chestnuts, however,had crevices made by the brown skin, so deep it almost divided the nut into two separate pieces. In that case, removing the inner skin breaks the whole chestnut apart. This year, my wife helped me removing the inner skin which sped up the process significantly.
Since I have already posted quite a few recipes using chestnut, I decided to make “Kuri-no-kanroni 栗の甘露煮. I usually buy this ready-made and sold in a jar. Most of the time, I use this in my “Chawan mushi” 茶碗蒸し.The commercial ones have both outer and inner skins cut away and the surface is smooth. The color is also bright yellow which make me think they use some kind of dye (natural dye or otherwise).
In my case, I used cooked and cleaned chestnuts like you see below (#1). For this amount of chestnuts, I prepared 200ml of water with 100grams of sugar dissolved poured over the chestnuts covering the chestnuts completely. I simmered gently for 20 minutes with the lid slightly askew (#2). I added a pinch of salt toward the end of cooking (to enhance the sweetness, although this may sound odd). I scooped up the chestnuts and placed then in a glass jar (#3). I reduced the remaining syrup for a few minutes and poured it over the chestnuts (#4).
My kanroni does not look as pretty as the commercial kind but it tasted very good and can be eaten as a snack/dessert or, as I mentioned, in chawanmushi.