There are several recipes for candied chestnuts on the internet. Most instruct you to boil the shelled chestnuts but I find that too often this produces a mushy result.
This recipe takes about one week to complete.
This is for one pound of chestnuts in the shell, it’s easy enough to double the recipe.
I cut the chestnut shells, steam them for about 8 minutes, which is long enough to loosen the shell and the cuts begin to curl.
I remove the shells, return the chestnuts to the steamer for an additional 2 minutes to make it easier to remove the inner skins and veins.
I change the water in the steamer, rinse the pan and the steam tray well and return the chestnuts to it and steam them for no more than 5 minutes, I begin testing with a thin skewer at 3 minutes and as soon as it penetrates easily, I remove them and blanch them in cold water and immediately drain.
I make my own vanilla syrup ahead of time
For one pound of chestnuts.
1 1/2 cups sugar to 1 cup water,
one whole vanilla bean,
add to the syrup and bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Leave the bean in the syrup.
If you have made your syrup ahead of time and it is cold, bring it to a boil and add the chestnuts, stirring constantly and cook at a slow boil for 8-10 minutes.
Transfer to a canning jar and set aside to cool. Place the lid loosely on the jar and leave overnight, 18-24 hours.
Make a small batch of new syrup, 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chestnuts in their syrup (with the vanilla bean) bring it to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat, return to the jar and soak for another 24 hours.
You will need to repeat this process (do not add more syrup unless there is not enough to partially cover the chestnuts) four more times – figure on it taking almost a week altogether, although the soaking can be extended for up to 2-3 days if you need to.
By the end of this process there should be only a little syrup remaining.
Remove the vanilla bean, rinse it well and allow it to dry. It still has some uses.
Place a wire rack on a sheet pan and handling the chestnuts with care, place them on the rack so they are not touching.
Put them in a cold oven and set the heat at 225. Set your timer for 30 minutes and when it sounds, turn off the oven. Do NOT open the door.
Leave the chestnuts in the oven for an hour.
At this point the surface of the chestnuts should be just slightly tacky.
You can set the sheet pan on the counter and leave them to dry further or if you wish, you can roll them in coarsely granulated sugar.
I have a dehydrator and do not use my oven to finish them. I put them in the dehydrator at medium-low heat (115° F) and leave them for 24 hours.
I buy the little paper nut cups at Smart & Final and store the chestnuts in them in a single layer in a cookie tin.
I don’t know how long they will keep, they never last long enough for it to be a consideration.