AUBURN, Calif — Does the idea of roasting chestnuts over an open fire sound good? Then you may want to head to Auburn where, every year, Tim Boughton grows around 8,000 pounds of chestnuts on his orchard at Amber Oaks Berry Farm.
Boughton grows American Chestnuts. The American Chestnut is kind of a rare commodity. In the past they were primarily grown on the east coast until they were hit by disease.
"A blight came from China in the 1970s and killed millions of trees," Boughton explained. Luckily, American Chestnut trees on the western side of the Rocky Mountains were not affected.
Around mid-October, Boughton welcomes people onto his orchard and teaches them his secret to roasting chestnuts. The first step is getting the nut out of the pokey husk.
"When they are on the ground, we use our foot to just push and roll them out," Boughton explained. "That way you don't have to use your hand."
You can peel the bitter skins of the chestnuts and eat them raw, but peeling is time consuming. The best way to get to the tasty center is to roast them.
To do that, Boughton suggests cutting the top off the chestnut, then boiling it in water to loosen up the skin.
"I boil them for one minute," he explained. "Take them out and roast them 'til the skin is black. The whole process takes five minutes."
When cooking chestnuts, you want a lots of heat. Boughton said he uses a BBQ cooking basket to hit the chestnuts with a direct flame. "As soon as the water evaporates off the shell, they are ready. It only takes two minutes," he said.
Obviously not everyone has a BBQ cooking basket, so you can use a regular pan over a stove if that is all you have.
"Hotter the better," Boughton said. "It's better to cook them hot and quick than it is to cook them slow.
Chestnuts are best eaten right out of the pan, but if you save them for later, "keep them in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator," Boughton said. "They will keep really well for a couple days."
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