Chestnuts grow in many regions in France, and you can find them absolutely everywhere in the Limousin. Traditionally the sweet chestnuts were consumed in large quantities during the long winter months.
Previous generations used the clédier or clède to preserve them. The clédier is a small building insulated with a stage of round or square form, without chimney.
On the ground a smouldering fire was left smoking for around 2 weeks.
The sweet chestnuts were distributed on an open tray in layers of approximately 20 cms. The heat dried the chestnuts and the smoke sterilised them. The chestnuts were removed as needed and rehydrated before consumption.
For an easier way of roasting chestnuts try out the method below. Cook some just before going for a walk through the Autumn leaves to keep your hands warm or sprinkled with a little salt by the fireside with a glass of dry white wine.
How to pick them:
Chestnuts are ready in late autumn, and should be glossy on the outside and feel heavy. If you shake one and you feel a soft rattle, as if there’s an empty space between the flesh and the shell, discard it.
1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Cut a cross into the top of each nut into the top of the flesh. Put in a roasting tin and bake until the skins open and the insides are tender( about 30 minutes).
3. Serve in paper bags.
Photos: Marc Lagneau via Flickr / Office de Tourisme Perigord-Limousin