My mother would take us on walks or bike rides around our neighborhood every day. We would race down the hill and make the first turn left. On this corner I remember there was a chestnut tree, long since gone. I recall picking up the chestnuts and placing them in my pocket, taking time to admire the smooth skin and interesting shape. We never ate them, and they very well could have been horse chestnuts anyway, but to me they were still treasures. I guess that is why I have always been interested in chestnuts. I remember on several occasions making my mother purchase some for me so I could roast them "Christmas carol style." You know, roasting on an open fire but not really because you don't have a real fire place and they have to cook in the oven anyway. Then they burn, and no body eats them. Needless to say that Chestnuts have not been on the menu for a long time since.
Chestnut Chutney with Red Onion and Fennel
1/3 cup olive oil
5 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 small fennel bulbs or 2 large, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sherry
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook and peel the chestnuts by scoring the skins with a "X" and placing them in boiling water for 20 minutes. Peel the chestnuts making sure to get the secondary layer of skin. Set them aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onions and fennel and cook gently for a half hour, until the onions are very soft. Coarsely chop the peeled chestnuts and add them to the pan along with the sugar, vinegar and sherry. Season well with 1 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour or until the liquid has thickened. Take this time to set up a water bath canner. Funnel the chutney into clean, hot jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Allow chutney to cool completely before serving.
-If you would like to avoid canning you can store chutney in refrigerator for 3-4 months.
-This chutney is lovely with a little cheese (think really good blue cheese) or bread. It can also be used to spruce up some thanksgiving leftovers.