The Chestnuts: December 07 2017, 0 Comments

Another reason to discover Provence in the cold season.

November is ending and days are shorter and shorter, Mistral blows colder and colder. The boats have left Saint-Tropez, and many hotels and restaurants are closing up for the winter. The millions of grapes have been harvested and the major part of tourism activity has closed for the winter. Provence has quit its first appeal and could seem austere at first sight. Nevertheless, since our previous article about the truffles, you now are aware that every month of the year is unique in Provence and that we always find something interesting to do ! After the truffle hunting let’s go for a chestnut escape ! 


The name ‘chestnut’ is derived from an earlier English term ‘chesten nut’, which descends from the Old French word ‘Chastain’. French calls this dry fruit either ‘Châtaigne’ for people living in  the South of France or ‘Marrons’ (Brown) if living in the North. 


The chestnut festival:

The department of Var in Provence, stretching from La Ciotat to Saint Tropez is known for its chestnuts. 

The beautiful village of Collobrières hold a festival dedicated to chestnuts which has gained international renowned and attracts thousands of people each year ! 

You can taste and buy chestnuts in almost every store. From traditional sweet chestnuts to those which are lightly roasted over a flame. You can either taste chestnut cakes or pies especially cooked for this festival !


Don’t be afraid, other delicious delicacies of the region can be tasted and bought at the festival. For sure, Calisson is part of it ! 


Calissons by Gilles Tips: If you want to spend a week-end and fully enjoy the chestnut Festival in Collobrières, Calissons by Gilles advises you to book a room at the Hôtel des Maures, a 3 stars hotel located  in the old town by the river. The hotel has all amenities and is very affordable. Make sure to pack a box of Calissons by Gilles for a pure moment of delight !


Chestnut picking

From October to December, the lights and colors are a mix of red,  brown and gold. The landscape is like a postcard. Take a jacket, a pair of gloves, a hat and get lost in the forest. Let’s go for chestnut hunting ! You will be impressed how easy and fast it is to fill a basket of this sweet dry fruits! In my family, growing up, we always had a contest for who will collect the most. I won many times!

Chestnuts, like almonds keep very well, they will last for weeks before consuming. That is why people from Provence always have some available within their home during winter.


Health Benefits

 Chestnuts have a lot of health benefits! 

Chestnuts may seem like an average, everyday nut, but they have a number of important health benefits including their ability to prevent diabetes, protect cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. Chestnuts also increase cognition and prevent chronic illnesses. 


How to prepare chestnuts?

Roasted chestnuts recipe

Fresh chestnuts must always be cooked before use and are never eaten raw.

The simplest way is to roast them on an open fire. Make a small incision in the skin or the chestnut will explode during the roasting process. When chestnuts are crackling in the fire, they are ready!

 Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the thin skin. Peel the nuts while they are hot as it's almost impossible to peel a cold chestnut. Be careful not to burn your fingers! 

Chestnuts in savory dishes:

In savory dishes, chestnuts incarnate the rustic and traditional cooking style of old. You can use them in soups, like chestnut & cauliflower soup.                                                                             As a vegetable, chestnuts are a very welcomed side to a roast dinner and game dishes. They are great as stuffing for your turkey. A traditional and succulent stuffing recipe could include chestnut, bacon & cranberry. Chestnuts can also be cooked with meat to give an authentic and traditional taste. You can find many recipes online.   

The famous Chestnut cream recipe, authentic since 1885 

The chestnut cream from Ardèche is an authentic recipe originally created by Clément Fauger in 1885. The recipe is still unique a century later and only uses natural ingredients. 

You can find tubes and cans of sweet chestnut in almost every supermarkets or epicerie of Provence. Marry the “Crème de Marrons” with Vanilla ice cream or pear sorbet; a classic combos in France. Once you try the Crème de Marrons, you will be a fan for life ! 

Another wonderful chestnut product is the candied chestnut commonly called “Marrons Glacés”. 


Chestnuts can be use as an alternative to flour in desserts as they can be blended into a fine crumb. 



Chocolate and chestnuts are a stunning combination ! 

We are in December, Christmas is approaching rapidly. Many French family will celebrate Christmas with “ la Bûche de Noël aux marrons”, (Yule Log). A chocolate log filled with a chestnut mousse and Marrons Glacés. It maybe the right opportunity for your to dare and prepare a “Bûche de Noël au marrons” for your Christmas dinner. 

So much can be done with chestnuts!

But do not forget, beyond this abundance and all the other delicacies at Christmas time, to get our traditional French confections of Calissons by Gilles, an amazing treat for all ages in all season. 



About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.