Sweet Chestnut or Chestnut? – We answer the all-important question
What is the difference between the sweet chestnut and the chestnut? Here we explain, and reveal how you can prepare these winter nuts at home.
Some Christmas markets are already open and that means the streets are filling up with that wonderful, sweet smell of chestnuts roasting on on open fire! But these nuts don’t just taste great freshly roasted at the Christmas market, but also in stuffing and, of course, in soup, as our very own chestnut soup from the current specials menu proves.
Yes, you’ve read it correctly, our beloved chestnuts are officially nuts. Before we share our tips for buying and processing these treats, the first thing we want to do is give you the answer to that all-important question.
Is there a difference between a sweet chestnut and a chestnut?
Some call them sweet chestnuts, others call them chestnuts. All you really need to know is that they are basically one and the same thing, but with some small differences. The nuts we call chestnuts are basically another type of sweet chestnut, but are larger, have a more intense flavour and are easier to peel. Incidentally, – and this is important – horse chestnuts, the ones which you can find on the ground at this time of year, are inedible! These are, thankfully easy to spot as their thick green shell almost always pops open when they fall to the ground. You will then find the shiny red-brown chestnut, which look beautiful but really only taste good for wild animals.
Buying sweet chestnuts and chestnuts, peel and prepare
Speaking of peeling, we also have tips on how to best prepare your chestnuts. When out shopping for these delicious nuts, look for chestnuts with smooth and glossy shells. Those with holes in should be left well alone. We also recommend shaking your chosen chestnuts - if you hear rattling, this is an indication that they are already dry on the inside and won’t taste very good.
Sweet chestnuts and chestnuts can be prepared in the oven or in a saucepan. First, use a pair of scissors to cut the tips off of the nuts. Then, place the chestnuts on their flat side and then with a sharp knife, cut a slit across the top of each chestnut, just cutting through the outer skin (be careful not to cut the flesh. To roast the chestnuts, simply put them into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes at about 200 degrees until they split open. Or, if you’d prefer to boil them, place them in saucepan, cover with water and leave them to boil gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove all of the remaining shell and bitter skin. Boiled chestnuts make a perfect side dish on their own, but they can also be pureed or even chopped and added to the stuffing for your Christmas roast!
Pro tip: don’t buy chestnuts in bulk. Sadly, the nuts don’t last very long and germinate quickly. Work with the freshest possible chestnuts as these are guaranteed to taste the best.
How do you like eating your chestnuts?