Sweet Chestnuts in Brandy
There’s a distinctly festive feel to this simple chestnut preserve – the peeled, cooked nuts are steeped in an aromatic syrup infused with orange, cinnamon and vanilla and a shot of brandy. Add to fruit cakes or mincemeat, or serve with stewed fruit or ice cream for an easy dessert.
- 650g sweet chestnuts
- 250g granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 orange (or a mixture of lemon and orange if you prefer)
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 50ml brandy
- First, prepare the sweet chestnuts. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut a slash in the skins of the nuts right around their middles. Put them in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to split open.
- Turn the heat under the pan to low, to keep the nuts hot as you work. With a slotted spoon, lift out one chestnut at a time and, using a tea towel or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, quickly peel off the skin. With any luck, the inner, fibrous husk will come away with the outer shell, but if any of it remains on the chestnut you should be able to scrape it off with the back of a knife. If not, return the chestnut to the pan for a few minutes and try again. When all the chestnuts are peeled, return them to the rinsed-out pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5–10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife. Drain and leave to cool.
- Now prepare the syrup. Put the sugar, orange zest, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon stick and 200ml water into a medium-sized pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Pour the syrup into a large jug to cool. When cold, stir in the brandy.
- Pack the chestnuts into a sterilised jar and pour over the syrup to cover. Store in a cool, dry place for at least ten days before eating. Unopened, the chestnuts should keep for up to 6 months.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK