“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir.
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”
The Christmas Song by Mel Torme / Robert Wells
The name “chestnut” has a multi-cultural lineage beginning with ancient Greece, moving into France and England, with European explorers finally bringing their variety to North America. The American chestnut was a staple of the indigenous peoples, but a blight came along with the Europeans, and nearly wiped out the American species. The chestnut is a true nut which means, in botanical terminology, “Dry fruit, grown on trees, that has a single seed, a hard shell, and a protective husk, is a nut; this includes chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts.”
Chestnuts are low in fat, high in Vitamin C, and contain antioxidants which help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Good news for diabetics, and better news is that they are high in fiber, and help balance blood sugar levels. By the way, they are low in calories too. Sounds like the perfect snack, right? Yes, they are, but they must be cooked, either by boiling or roasting as raw chestnuts contain tannic acid. Tannic acid is known to cause, in some people, stomach irritation, nausea, and kidney and liver issues which may lead to severe disease.
Another use for these chestnuts would be in a soup, either for a holiday meal, or just for a cold, wintery warmup. The packages are 3.5 ounces, so four packages would be needed for the soup recipe I am sharing with you.
|Chestnut Soup with Cracked Black Pepper|
|Chestnut Soup with Bacon|
3 Tbsp. butter
1 large leek, white part only, chopped and washed
1/2 cup each of diced celery and carrot
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. crushed thyme leaves
1/2 cup half n' half
6 cups vegetable broth
4 (3.5 oz) bags roasted chestnuts
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. each nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper
In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat; sauté' leeks, celery and carrots until the leeks become translucent. Add in flour, thyme and half n' half; bring to a boil and stir till thickened. Add in broth, chestnuts, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes; stir occasionally.
Using an immersion blender, or transferring to a tabletop blender, process soup until smooth.
Note: toppings such as a drizzle of sour cream, cracked black and red pepper, or crumbled bacon can be served with the soup.
Makes 8 servings.