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Roasted Chestnut Day

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos ..."

~ The Christmas Song, Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, 1945

A fixture of the holiday season, chestnuts, roasted or otherwise, are traditionally used in both sweet and savory dishes. In Victorian London, the regular costermongers seldom dealt in oranges and chestnuts. Chestnuts were obtained from the set of street vendors who sold oranges, roasted chestnuts and walnuts, and were classed with the watercress-women, the sprat-women (foraged fish), the winkle-dealers (sea snails), and others, and were considered beneath the regular costermonger! Today, chestnuts are made into classic creamy soups, pies, and cakes. Candied chestnuts are sold under the French name marrons glacés or the Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugared chestnuts"); and puréed chestnuts mixed with sugar and whipped cream are the basis for the French dessert, Mont Blanc!

Chestnut refers both to the tree itself and to the edible nuts.  The Chestnut tree belongs to the family Fagaceae, which also includes oaks and beeches. Horse chestnuts are an unrelated species (though this tree produces nuts of similar appearance which are mildly toxic to humans).

The nuts can also be eaten candied, boiled, steamed, deep-fried, grilled, or roasted in sweet or savory recipes, such as chestnut cake or chestnut pie, and are commonly found in recipes for the holiday season.

Candied chestnuts are sold under the French name marrons glacés or the Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugared chestnuts"). They first appeared as a sweetmeat in France during the 16th century.  Chestnuts are picked in autumn, and candied from the start of the following summer for the ensuing Christmas. Thus, the marrons glacés eaten at Christmas are those picked the year before.

In Hungarian cuisine, cooked chestnuts are puréed, mixed with sugar (and usually rum), forced through a ricer, and topped with whipped cream to make a dessert called gesztenyepüré (chestnut purée). In Swiss cuisine, a similar dish made with kirsch and butter is called vermicelles while the French version is known as "Mont Blanc".

Designed by Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan contains the warm autumn colours of the chestnut tree. 

For an easy way to enjoy roast chestnuts without the open fire, click the chestnuts!