Sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) are an autumn treat. In the Netherlands the harvest is not always good, the chestnuts are only ripe enough to eat after hot summers. Do not confuse sweet chestnuts with horse chestnuts, these are bitter and toxic. See the picture above for the differences.
To prepare gathered chestnuts, take them out of their cupules. Store-bought chestnuts are sold without cupules. To use them, they must be freed from their smooth outer skin.
Before heating them, make a crosswise incision, or one cut around the nut (Dutch source). There are special chestnut roasting pans with perforated bottoms which can be used on a gas stove or barbecue. Chestnuts can also be roasted in the oven, or – of course – an open fire …
With a sharp knife, cut a cross in or slice across the chestnuts. Boil in water for three minutes, with an optional dash of oil. Leave them in the hot water, and peel them one by one while they are still hot (but cooled just enough not to burn your fingers). If the chestnuts have cooled too much, it is nearly impossible to remove the shell and skin. Removing the skin is patient work, if they are difficult to remove, just peel the chestnuts as you would potatoes.
To boil chestnuts until they are completely done will take about 25 minutes, but then they will fall apart during peeling. This is not be a problem when they will be made into purée. Most canned chestnut purée is sweetened.
However, if peeling chestnuts seems too much bother, one can buy precooked and peeled chestnuts. These are an excellent alternative.
How to prepare sweet chestnuts
Sweet chestnuts must be peeled before they can be used in the kitchen. On this page is described how to do that.