Making Chestnut Flour – Cooking and Preserving Chestnuts
I promised a post about making chestnut flour when I wrote about our two prolific chestnut trees last month. I managed to get all the way up to the point of picking, scoring, roasting, peeling and freezing the chestnuts, but just couldn’t find time for the last step: Grinding them into flour.
Today for lunch I decided to try adding chestnuts into the everything-goes omelet mix I whipped up (eggs, sausage, chives, fennel seeds, mozzarella, cheddar cheese, cilantro, salsa, salt, pepper, milk – and chestnut flour) so it was time to finish the process. Not having the time to grind all of our chestnuts into flour consistency, I just threw a few of them into a mortar and pestle combo and mashed them up for a single serving. I had to wait until they thawed first, which doesn’t take long if you put them in a bag submerged in hot water, or just nuke them. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First you have to…
#1 Pick the Chestnuts - Get them off the ground and either into the fridge or freezer, or roast them within a few days. Otherwise many of them will go bad (e.g. get wormy). They should be fine for several weeks uncooked in the fridge, but ideally you would roast them, peel them and freeze them within a week after they fall to the ground. Once frozen you can relax; they should stay good all year.
#2 Score the chestnuts. Cut an X into the flat side of the chestnut (if there is one) to allow moisture to escape as they roast. Otherwise you might have a few explode. This also makes it easier to peel them. Remember, the bigger the X, the easier they are to peel.
#3 - Roast the Chestnuts. I used a dutch oven and put a tiny bit of water in the bottom. My dutch oven has a rack that goes on the bottom so none of the chestnuts were actually touching the water. Or you could just use a cookie sheet in the oven.
#4 - Peel the Roasted Chestnuts. This is by far the most time consuming and labor intensive part of the process. It is a good activity to do while watching a movie or hanging out on the porch and enjoying the sunshine. Just make sure you leave more in the bowl than you eat.
#5 & #6 - Freeze and Crush the Chestnuts. I don't see why this has to be in any particular order, but maybe someone else knows. I froze mine first. They went straight from the bowl of peeled chestnuts into a baggie in the freezer. Then when I needed some today I just pulled out a few and ground them up like flour to add into a meal. It would be great stuff for thickening soups and I can't wait to try it in the butternut squash soup Missy plans on making tomorrow. Even for bread I'm going to try it this way. Our zucchini bread turns out just fine without drying out the zucchini first. You may want to dry it out though if it is going to be your ONLY flour, rather than mixing it with wheat flour like we will.
We often think of our veggie gardens, chickens and maybe milk goats when it comes to self-sufficiency talk these days. Moving to this new place has reminded me of all of the other sources of free food out there for the taking, like the chestnuts and walnuts that lay to rot all over America. We pass apple trees all the time with the ground completely covered in rotting apples that could have been eaten. I’m going to try tapping our walnut and maple trees for syrup next year. And of course there are all of the berries to be had for the picking. Last but not least, we’ve added fish to our list of free food and aquaculture to our list of things to study now that we have a pond. And that’s all before planting a single seed!
PS: The everything-goes omelets were delicious!
Category: Food, The Transplants