One of my grandmothers was of French descent, and aside from her charming accent and excellent cooking skills, it meant that she was also partial to some items with which as a British child, I was unfamiliar.
Quite often at Christmas someone would give her an immense box which when opened, turned out to contain 5 or 6 marrons glacés, widely spaced and individually wrapped.
With a grandmother’s generosity she would offer them to me and my brother. At first, the mealy sweetness was not very much to my taste. However as I grew older, I became quite fond of these treats, and even had a disastrous go at making them (think sugar-encased saucepan and crumbled nuggets of chestnut).
Before Christmas, T saw a programme in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was learning how to make marrons glacés. Apparently it was fairly simple, so I found the details on the Channel 4 website here, and we had a go.
Now as every other food blogger seems to happily reproduce recipes verbatim or otherwise, I would love to do so too. However I can’t shake the feeling that this is some kind of copyright issue, so will leave you to navigate to it yourselves.
As you can see, it is pretty straightforward. Here are a few tips from our experience:
- We only made a third of the amount, which still equated to around 15-20 chestnuts. This number was nicely manageable, and a good way to try out the recipe.
- The chestnuts become harder to peel the cooler they get. Despite trying to cocoon them in a tea-towel, the last 5 or 6 were real buggers. I suggest rounding up as many people as you can to simultaneously peel them, thus helping to avoid increasing pain under the thumbnails and to minimise the potential for nut-inspired tantrums.
- Skewering the chestnuts at the final glazing stage can lead to breakages. I resorted to spoons after existing fissures in the chestnuts kept responded badly to the presence of the skewer.
The final result was quite mixed. Some chestnuts were tough on the outside and although sweet, the sugar had not always managed to penetrate the entire nut. Others were softer and more enjoyable, though visually most were riven with cracks.
Cost-wise, of course, home-made are far far cheaper. However I did not find them to be comparable with the bought ones, and feel that while I would make them again, perhaps a different variety of nut is needed.