Here is an easy recipe for homemade candied chestnuts that calls for marroni, which are the larger, higher-quality chestnuts that are easier to peel. They are generally more expensive than smaller chestnuts (those that Italians call castagne), but they are less labor-intensive, and far more visually impressive.
This way of candying chestnuts, by boiling them in a sugar syrup, originated in southern France and northern Italy around the 15th or 16th century. They are a common treat during Christmas time and the New Year. The first known recipe for them dates to Louis XIV's court at Versailles and the great chef La Varenne.
They make a wonderful Christmas gift or hostess present.
- 2 1/4 pounds/1kg marroni (large chestnuts)
- 1 pinch salt (sea)
- For the Syrup:
- 18 ounces/500g sugar (granulated, a little more than 2 cups)
- 4 cups/1 liter water
- Optional: 1 vanilla bean
Peel the chestnuts and add them to a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water. Boil them for about 20 minutes, then remove the pot from the burner and let the chestnuts steep in the hot water for 5 minutes more.
Remove the chestnuts one at a time with a slotted spoon, peeling off the thin skin that covers the nuts but being careful not to damage the nuts themselves (they'll be soft). Once you have skinned them, transfer them to a wide, stainless-steel skillet.
Take another pot and dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Add the vanilla bean, if you are using it, and simmer the syrup, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon, until the syrup thickens somewhat (you want it to remain fairly fluid).
Pour the syrup over the chestnuts and simmer them over a very low heat for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 10 minutes more.
Remove the chestnuts one at a time and arrange them on a serving plate.
Serve them with unsweetened whipped cream. You can also sprinkle them with brandy, or serve them in small cups, with a little of their syrup spooned over them. You can also just serve them alone, or in any of the several ways suggested in the link below.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge