All chestnuts are not peeled in the same way.  If you want to roast your chestnuts, whether it's over an  open fire or in the oven you'll want to follow the procedures here first.  If you want to peel your chestnuts for a recipe then there's a far easier method below:  In either case, handle the hot nuts carefully.

   

.Peeling a chestnut to roast    | Peeling a chestnut to cook

 

Peeling a Chestnut to be Roasted

Step 1

So you've reached the ripe old age of 40, or even 50 or 60 and you've never peeled a chestnut!  This certainly isn't something you want to admit publicly so we'll walk you through the process to make sure you look like an old pro when you make your first attempt.
  • First, you'll need a knife to do the job.  A knife similar to the one shown is available on our order form for $6.00.
 
 

Step 2

  • Score the nut on its flat side now.  Why the flat side instead of the curved side?  No particular reason except that it's easier that way and you're less likely to cut yourself in the process.  You'll probably be able to tell when you're through the leather-like shell.  It will feel hollow.  You don't want to penetrate the nut itself.  
  • If you're planning on eating the nuts raw proceed to Step 5 now.
  • If you're going to roast the nuts, now is the time to put them in the oven.  I put mine on a cookie sheet for about 25-30 minutes at 350o.  If you prefer the old fashioned method you can put them in a chestnut roaster and gently shake them over the fire for about 15 minutes.  We have roasters available on our order pages.
 

 

Step 3
  • Once the nut has been roasted the shell opens up by curling back as shown here.  The pellicle shows clearly now and appears as a secondary shell.  A boiled nut looks nearly the same except that it appears moist.
 

 

Step 4
  • Whether roasted or boiled, the shell and the pellicle are now easily separated from the nut itself, seen center, and it takes only a few seconds to do the job, not much different than removing a peanut from its shell.  And it's just about as easy.  Take care not to handle the nuts until they're cool enough to handle safely.
  • Now -- eat, and enjoy!
 
Step 5
  • The nut shown here has had most of the shell removed so that the pellicle is visible.  Removing the pellicle can be very easy if the nut is roasted or boiled, but may be a little more challenging if it is raw, and the poorer the quality of the nut, the more difficult it is.  Peeling the raw nut reminds me a little of peeling an apple with a paring knife -- doable, but not desirable.  And the flavor of a raw nut?  It's okay, but doesn't begin to compare with the sweetness of a fresh-roasted chestnut.  
 

Peeling a Chestnut for Cooking

 

 

Step 1

Weigh out 1 lb. of nuts -- no more.  Because the temperature is crucial in having the nut meat release from the shell and pellicle, that's the largest quantity you should work with.  Cut the nut in half as shown by the dotted line.  A heavy duty knife is best.  Keep the raw nuts refrigerated between batches. 

Step 2

Place the halves in boiling water so that the nuts are all covered.  Boil for EXACTLY 7.5 minutes for medium to large nuts, 7.25 minutes for smaller nuts.  If the nuts are cooked too long it tends to make them more crumbly and harder to manage.  About 20% of the nut meats will fall out of the shell and pellicle when they are removed from the boiling water.  The rest will easily removed with a chestnut knife.  As the nuts cool you will see a difference in the ease of removal of the nut meat.  You may want to place them back in the boiling water for a bit as your work progresses. 

 

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