Chestnuts: A French Obsession

December 05, 2017

Chestnuts: A French Obsession

Chestnuts are an exquisite French fall tradition! To my surprise, out of all the American fall flavors, chestnut was nowhere to be found. This got me thinking of all the delicious French dishes which include chestnuts and how versatile this fruit can be. Did you know it was a fruit? In France, chestnuts are considered a fruit, and not a regular nut. It is important to make this difference because it guides how it is used. Let's start our chestnut culinary discover... 

Roasted Chestnuts

One of my first encounters with chestnuts as a child (and what many tourists see too) are the chestnut roasting stands on the streets of Paris. Chestnuts sold on street stands are served warm and placed in a paper cone, just like a crêpe! Most of these chestnuts come from the South of France, close to Lyon. In the old days, chestnuts were one of the food staples of these regions due to its high nutritious value. The tradition has remained and French kids & adults still love this winter treat. To prepare them, chestnuts are first cut open & grilled on a metal hot plate placed over open fire. Once the cracks on each chestnut has widened, they are ready! If you ever hear, chestnuts sellers shouting “Chaud, les marrons, chaud” you will know the freshest batch is ready for purchase.

A French Christmas: Turkey with Chestnuts

Because chestnuts are a traditional but luxurious fruit, they are usually part of French Christmas dinners. Chestnuts can be used in stuffing or they can be served as a side. That’s how I prefer them! Simply peel and bake the chestnuts, with a drop of butter, for 30 min at 400F. Towards the end of baking, check the chestnuts with a fork. If they break apart easily, they are ready.

Candied Chestnuts

Candied chestnuts are a luxurious French holiday treat, rumored to have been invented by a candy maker for Louis XIV. These delicate sweets require more than 10 steps and about 15 days to go from simple chestnuts to exquisite treats. Chestnuts are first cooked in boiling water and successively immersed in a sugar syrup followed by a period of air drying. This step can be repeated 3 or 4 times depending on the candy maker, and chestnuts often break in the process. Because of the complex process, many candied chestnuts are sold as pieces and only chestnuts of the highest quality are sold whole, usually presented in their individual golden foil packaging. Because of the artisanal process, these exquisite French treats have a short shelf-life. To ensure freshness, our candied chestnuts are vacuumed-sealed in France to deliver the best quality and flavor to all candy lovers all over the world.

Chestnut Cream

Similarly to candied chestnuts, chestnut cream holds its long-standing history to the region of Ardèches, in the South of France. Towards the end of the 19th century, as the local economy is going through a terrible time, Clément Faugier decides to start making candied chestnuts with all the chestnuts growing in his backyard. He starts the company by producing candied chestnuts in 1882, but soon realizes that candied chestnuts are incredibly difficult to make, and often whole chestnuts break into pieces. Since quality candied chestnuts are only sold whole, this leaves him with scraps that cannot be sold. 3 years after starting production, he decides to cook the chestnuts scraps by adding raw chestnuts, sugar and glucose syrup, and blending it until it creates a smooth texture, similar to Nutella (but not as sweet!). The recipe is a huge success, and has been left unchanged since. French adults and kids love spreading chestnut cream on brioche or baguette, eating it with yogurt, or for the sweetest tooth of all, simply eating with a spoon. 

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