Saturday, October 03, 2009

Chestnuts


Chestnuts
Originally uploaded by linfrye
Daily Practice

It's a 'nutty' time of year - both figuratively and literally. And for those of us who enjoy the autumn nut crop - it seems this year is another one of bounty.

Rebecca, whose garden and yard are enviable, has several enormous chustnut trees, planted over 40 years ago when she and her husband moved into her family's original home. The American Chestnut , once a dominant tree and the fruits a staple of the Native Americans, was virtually obliterated in the early 1900s from a blight that literally wiped out entire populations of the tree. Enormous strides have been made to find those trees resistant to the blight to reproduce them and return the American Chestnut to the forests and streets of our country.

Rebecca tells me that she planted Chinese chestnuts - a species resistant to the blight. And this year, the crop is a bumper.

Last week, we took our students to her home to dig up the extra trees, shrubs and plants that had volunteered in her garden. While there, they also gathered some of the nuts for planting and a few for roasting. Rebecca, incredibly generous, gave me over a GALLON of these, and so my weekend is being devoted to rendering them into delicious recipes.

But first, I had to sketch them, and for some reason, the drawing, with it's twists turns and whatevers, was as prickly as those outer shells of the nut! LOL

Since we have so many of the nuts, we must remove the hulls and either roast, dry or boil them so we can then use them for cooking as well as preserving them for the year. Chestnuts have been a family tradition for us for YEARS, but we always had a difficult time finding them in our area grocery stores.

Charles and I cut the raw nuts in half, boiled them with a bit of salt for 15-20 minutes in a large pot of water, and then removed the kernels from the shell. A process that took us over 3 hours for a single pot of nuts!

I then took the drained meats, ground them in my coffee grinder, and made a scrumptious chestnut bread. I used the recipe I had for 'acorn' bread ... it's a quick bread and yummy:

1/2 cup oil
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chestnut meal (flour - I used damp meal, but you can use dried chestnut flour)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried elderberries (I used raisins and dried cherries)

Thoroughly mix the first ten ingredients, adding the nuts and dried fruit. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan (or several of the small aluminum bread pans) and bake at 350F degrees for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Today we take the grands to the pumpkin patch .. so it'll be another busy day.

Hope you have a great one!

3 comments:

Connie said...

Where am I when all this wonderful cooking and baking is going on? I bet the house smells delicious!

The painting is incredibly detailed. I feel like I could pick one up!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully rendered painting -- another of your botanicals. The details are incredible. I have never seen chestnuts in anything but their "polished" state.
Have fun at the pumpkin farm. A friend and I will go to one and on to a quilt show on Tuesday (kids at heart!).
Hugs,
Lorraine

Jona said...

I'm crazy about chestnuts!!!
Wonderfully painted! God, they look real!

Thanks for the recipe, have to save it.

Happy Sunday, Lin.