Here’s a wonderful old recipe from the late 18th century that uses American chestnuts. You can make this chestnut pie just like they did over 200 years ago!
The American Chestnut was once a popular and populous tree, comprising around one of every four hardwood trees in the forest. But a blight took hold and almost eradicated chestnut trees from much of their former locations.
Well, unless you are fortunate enough to have an American chestnut tree nearby from which you can harvest chestnuts, you will have to turn to your grocer and get some Asiatic chestnuts. These will do just fine and you’ll be able to complete this dish just as well with this chestnut species.
This particular recipe comes from the 1788 cookbook, “The English Art of Cookery”, by Richard Biggs. Below is the actual recipe as Biggs laid it out.
Put two dozen chestnuts into a sauce-pan of water and boil them half an hour; then take off the shells and skins, and beat them fine in a marble mortar, with a little orange-flower or rose water and sack, till they are of a fine paste; beat up the yolks of twelve and the whites of fix eggs, mix them with three pints of cream or new milk, grate in half a nutmeg, put in half a pound of fresh butter melted, the same quantity of sugar, and a tea spoonful of salt, mix all well together, put it over the fire, and keep it stirring till it is thick, then take it off; and set it away to cool. Lay a puff-pastry round the edge of the [dish] pour in the pudding, and bake it one hour.
But we’ve halved the recipe and modified the ingredients a bit, to the following:
- Approx. 12-16 chestnuts
- 3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
- 5 tbsp butter melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 pint cream
- Puff pastry
- Score or crack the chestnuts and place in a saucepan to boil.
- Mix the remaining ingredients into a batter.
- Once chestnuts have boiled for a half-hour, peel them and pulverize in food processor with a little but of sack.
- Add the pulverized chestnuts to the batter, stirring thoroughly.
- Place in saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Set aside to cool.
- Line a pie dish with pastry. Pour chestnut mixture into the dish and bake for approximately one hour at 375 degrees.
It should be lightly browned on top.
Give it a try. It’s easy and is something from the 18th century that your friends or family certainly have not had before.