One of the treats that I remember during my high school years were roasted chestnuts. When the November starts and during Winter season vendors would be on the streets of Belgrade selling chestnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
The warm scent that filled the cold air was unbelievable, almost intoxicating that you simply have to stop and get some. When the vendor packs them in the newspaper cones, that would warm my freezing hands until I’d reach the bus station.
I hide behind the kiosks and newspaper stands and munch on these until my bus or trolley arrives. Oh! They were so luscious, warm and sweet in so many ways.
As much as it was hard waking up early, going to school, walking by myself in the very dark morning that if there was no snow you just walking blindly until you reach the main street, fighting to get on the bus and change several trolleys, it was one of the happy memories that I could remember.
It always fills my heart with a delight. You just wait until the end of the day to get something from the street vendor before you go home.
The funniest memory that was not so funny at the moment when I roasted chestnuts at home. I lived in this old house and right below me was my friend who I spend after-school time.
So, I turned the oven on, wiped all the chestnut with the damp kitchen towel and threw them in the oven to roast. Without thinking, I went downstairs to drink coffee with my friend.
As we went on and on about our day, we could hear a noise that sounded like somebody is breaking into my place. BOM! BOM! BOM!
We were terrified, and my friend pushed me out of her door and stood there like a Statue Of Liberty… She couldn’t move. I took the biggest knife from her kitchen and went bravely upstairs.
I shouted, I screamed, I threatened… For probably 10 minutes. “Get out of my house… I have a knife, and I am not afraid to use it…”
My friend was ready to start calling cops. I looked back and her finger was on that “finger-wheel”.
OK! This was before the cell phone era, and when the rotary finger-wheel phones are still in many of the households. Anyhow, I shouted again, and again…
And the noise was louder and louder every couple of seconds, as I was making each step. As I made it to the top of the stairs, just then I remembered that the noise was coming from my kitchen.
Yup! The thing that never answered my threats was, in fact, chestnuts that were roasting in my oven. How stupid of me, right?!
But I was like 15 years old, so I didn’t know that you have to score chestnuts, and if you don’t they will start bombarding your oven.
Nowadays, I usually roast them on the grill or in the oven and they wake up the warm and fuzzy sensation from the happy memories of my high school days.
To guarantee that you’re getting fresh, healthy chestnuts, avoid wrinkled, mottled, or dingy shells. These things can indicate mold or that they’re past their prime. Also check for pinholes as this can indicate worms. The chestnut season is October through the end of December, so any for sale outside that window will likely be either too young or too old. You want shiny, firm nuts that have little, if any, space between the shell and the meat inside.
Oven Roasted Chestnuts
- 1-2 LBS CHESTNUTS
- Clean each chestnut with the damp kitchen towel.
- With a sharp knife, make a cut across the belly side of the chestnuts. You can also score cross, but one cut across the belly is easy to open it up after they are completely done.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the chestnuts in the one layer of the baking tin just to measure how many you can use in one layer.
- Boil water, then turn down on simmer. When you see small simmering bubbles add chestnuts and simmer for 10 full minutes under the lid on low heat.
- Drain the chestnuts, then roast the chestnuts for 20 to 25 minutes at 400F depending on your oven.
- When the chestnuts start to open, most likely they are doing. Squeeze one or two of the chestnuts to check if the meat inside is softer and the shell is cracking. You do not want to burn them.
- When done, keep them in the baking tin for a minute or two covered with a large kitchen towel; this will make them even softer and better for eating after they steam up for just a bit under the kitchen towel.
Equipment: Kitchen towel Sharp knife or a chestnut knife Baking Pan Saucepan or medium size pot.