Chestnuts are low in fat, high in starch, and extremely perishable.
They are delicious when paired with vanilla, coffee, chocolate, and most fresh and dried fruit harvested in fall. They also like roasts, stuffings and dressings, game and poultry.
Usually when chestnuts arrive in the supermarket, the prickly outer burrs have already been removed, the nuts have cured in a cool, dry place away from the tree for a day or two and are ready to be stored in the home freezer.
Some chestnut experts suggest that freezing alters the flavor of the nuts and that a test run, before freezing the entire batch, is in order.
Freezing Chestnuts with the Shell On
To freeze chestnuts with the shell on, arrange chestnuts on a cookie sheet so that they do not touch each other, and place in the freezer for 3 or 4 hours. Then, load the individually frozen chestnuts into an airtight container and return to the freezer. When ready to use some of the chestnuts, remove what you need and return the remaining chestnuts to the freezer.
The key to the success of this method is using an airtight container for storage. Vacuum-sealed freezer bags are ideal, particularly since they use a minimum amount of space in the freezer. Jars with airtight lids work very well and tend to be more inexpensive.
Frozen chestnuts with the shell on are best thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Then, leave them on the counter for a few minutes to allow them to return to room temperature.
Freezing Roasted Chestnuts
Use only ripe and fully mature chestnuts.
Make a cross-cut on either the side or the bottom of each nut so that the shell will not explode during roasting. Spread chestnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until chestnuts are done.
Remove chestnuts from oven, wrap in a heavy towel and allow to steam for about 10 minutes. When you press on the towel, you will hear the chestnuts crunch as they come out of their shells. Separate shells, husks, and chestnuts. Give chestnuts a light sprinkle of salt and store in an air tight container in the freezer until ready for use as a snack.
About Boiled and Frozen Chestnuts
Chestnuts to be used in moist preparations like jams and purees may be peeled and boiled before freezing. After they are cooked, lightly pat the nuts dry, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze for a couple of hours. Then load the individually frozen nuts into an air-tight container for freezer-storage.
When you are already boiling and freezing chestnuts, it is almost impossible to resist the urge to make a quick batch of Chestnut Jam. It is delicious on warm toast in the mornings or spooned over vanilla ice cream for a special treat at the end of the day.
A supply of frozen chestnuts will keep for more than a year. This is truly hidden treasure to make any meal special as they are enjoyed throughout the year.