Candied Bourbon Chestnuts in Syrup
There was a time when the forests of the Eastern U.S. were full of chestnut trees. Wildlife loved them, as did the people who lived around them and valued them for both food and lumber. Then the chestnut blight hit in 1904 when fungus-infected nursery stock was brought in from Japan. In a few short years, native chestnuts became a thing of the past.
Luckily for us, and wildlife, a few trees exhibited resistance to the blight. These trees were cross-bred with blight-resistant stock from other parts of the world to produce a viable tree with mostly native DNA. If you are a hunter or land manager, one of the best things you can do for your property is to plant these new chestnut seedlings. They will start bearing mast in as little as three years, and attract deer, turkeys and other wildlife from miles around.
If you are lucky enough to beat the deer to ripe chestnuts on your property, you need to roast a few for this recipe. They make a great snack this time of year. The only bad thing about chestnuts is that they don't keep very well for long periods, even refrigerated.
That's where this candied chestnut recipe comes in handy. After cooking, store the chestnuts in a jar covered with the cooking syrup. They will last several months and are outstanding on ice cream or as a morning snack with a cup of coffee.
2 to 3 pounds chestnuts in shells
5 cups water
5 cups sugar
1 tablespoon either bourbon or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
Start by cross scoring and roasting the chestnuts using this method. Let the nuts cool, then peel the shell and inner membrane.
In a heavy pot, add the water and sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the chestnuts and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the bourbon or vanilla extract and the salt. Stir well. Cover the pot and simmer the chestnuts for 2 hours.
Leave the pot covered and remove it from the heat. Let the chestnuts sit for 24 hours. The finished nuts should hold their shape, but be soft to the touch.
Serve them individually with a good cup of coffee, or spoon a few, along with a bit of the syrup, over ice cream.