Seed Toasting and Chestnut Roasting
Posted: October 25, 2012
Here are some hints for toasting sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix one cup of sunflower seeds or clean pumpkin seeds with one teaspoon of oil if you want to salt the seeds. Spread the plain or oiled seeds on a baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Watch carefully; seeds brown quickly. Sprinkle the oiled seeds with 1/4 teaspoon salt or other favorite seasoning while hot.
One of my favorite holiday songs, The Christmas Song, contains the lyrics “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” If you don’t want to do roast them over an open fire, there is an easier way to roast chestnuts. Before we get to the roasting part, here are a few tips on storage. After harvesting chestnuts, they should be seasoned for several days to remove excess moisture and to slow down any mold growth. Spread the nuts one or two layers deep on mesh hardware cloth to dry. Do not over dry. A nut shell which can be pushed in a considerable amount is too dry. If you like to eat raw chestnuts, it is best to let them stand for a few weeks to allow the starch to change to sugar. This can be done best using a combination of air drying and refrigeration.
Chestnuts can be kept in the refrigerator for several months. Chestnuts dry quickly in dry air and mold quickly in damp air. When using refrigerator storage, the nuts should be placed in a closed paper sack and left for one to two days until they reach refrigerator temperature. They should then be transferred to a sealed plastic bag with a dozen holes punched in using a medium-sized nail. If the chestnuts mold in the refrigerator, scrub the mold off the nuts and place them on paper towels. Allow them to dry for several hours and then repeat the above procedure with the paper sack followed by plastic bags.
The most popular method of cooking chestnuts is roasting. DO NOT roast a chestnut until one or two holes have punctured the shell. Some people prefer to make a small “x” on the flat side of the shell. If not punctured in some way, the build-up of steam pressure within the shell will cause the nut to explode with considerable noise, force, and mess. When roasting chestnuts “over an open fire,” use a covered utensil with a long handle. In a conventional oven, heat the nuts for about 15 minutes at 300 degrees. It may be necessary to experiment with the timing just a little.
For the less adventurous, the microwave works well. Cut the nuts in half and place cut side down on a double layer of paper towels. To start, try using eight medium- sized chestnuts and a roast setting for two minutes. Here again, some experimenting may be needed. Steaming is great for chestnuts that have dried too much. Cut the chestnuts in half, and steam 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, cool, and remove any kernels that have not already fallen out of the shell. To boil chestnuts, cut an “x” in the shell and drop them in a pan of boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, boil 5 minutes, turn off the heat, and remove a few nuts at a time to peel.
Enjoy the beauty and tasty treats of autumn. Make it a fun-filled experience for the whole family.