A popular winter snack, chestnuts date back to pre-historic times. Mainly grown and consumed in the Mediterranean countries, chestnuts are a major staple in Southern Europe, Asia Minor, Southwestern and East Asia. They are also grown here in the States.
In Turkey, it is cultivated in the Marmara Sea region and the Black Sea region mainly in the mountainous areas. The most famous chestnuts (kestane) in Turkey is in the city of Bursa which is around the Marmara region. They grow in trees where the brown colored nut is enclosed in greenish spiny round burs. The nuts are harvested around October.
When I saw them in stores recently, my memory awakened for another joy of the winter. I grabbed a bag of the chestnuts and was looking forward to a cold night for roasting. I recollect seeing numerous chestnut carts in Turkey during winter months where the aroma of the roasted chestnuts fills the whole street. Resisting the temptation of the roasted chestnuts caused by inhaling the wonderful aroma is extremely difficult. The chestnut vendors can also be seen in the streets of Philadelphia and New York City during the winter months.
At home in Turkey, we used to roast them on wood fire which gives it a better taste. It has been years since I have had this experience. Since my visits to Turkey are always in the summer months, I have not had the chance to enjoy some of the roasted chestnuts over there. I compensate for it by roasting them myself in my oven. Although not the same, it does give a similar pleasure to the palates.
Chestnuts can also be boiled, cooked in food and used in a number of desserts. My favorite is though the roasted chestnuts. When the weather is cold and you feel like hanging out at home with family, roast some chestnuts and enjoy them warm.
Heat oven to 350º F. With a sharp knife, cut an X on the back of each chestnut. See picture below.
Arrange chestnuts on oven tray and roast until all the chestnut open up and the flesh of the chestnuts is exposed.
Let them cool to make sure you do not burn yourself. Peel and enjoy warm.