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Last updated December 17, 2009

Recipes from Badgersett Farm

Always in progress…

There are thousands of chestnut and hazelnut recipes on the web—what you'll find here are recipes we've developed using our own nuts, which are indeed slightly different from what's available elsewhere. These may give you an idea of where to start with your own ideas.

If you come up with some wonderful recipe of your own, we'd love to hear about it. We'll always give you credit, and we may ask if we can put it up here for others to try, too.

For specific information about preparing hazelnuts and chestnuts, see "Cooking & Eating Fresh Chestnuts" and "Cooking Hazelnuts". In particular, you'll probably want to check the chestnut peeling video.

Introduction

"Yes but what do I DO with them?!" we sometimes hear. For many folks in the USA, hazelnuts are only found in coffee and chestnuts only in turkey stuffing, the open fire fantasy notwithstanding. After they eat a few dozen raw, people start looking around for more places to put them. In other countries around the world, folks with more ready access to these nuts know literally thousands of traditional ways to use them; did you know that the average European eats about a cup of hazelnuts per week? And they're not all in chocolate bars, either. In the US, we average 2 nuts/person/year. No wonder we've forgotten what to do with them.

Recipe books for chestnuts and hazels exist, of course, and you can have fun tracking them down and trying them out, particularly if you speak German or French or Italian or Turkish. Many of these recipes are easily adaptable to our nuts. But our hybrid nuts are in fact a little different—not necessarily better, certainly not worse! but different, yes. So we are providing this list of things we've tried and like. Maybe we should include the failures—we strongly suggest, for instance, that you skip trying to fry fresh chestnuts in an omelette, unless you have good dental insurance.

You'll need to adapt the recipes here carefully for your own cooking conditions. A fact of life at Badgersett is that all our serious cooking is done on an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. How hot the stove is at any time is always a matter of approximation, depending on whether you're burning dry oak or green chestnut, how recently the fire was stoked, what diameter the wood is…and about a dozen et ceteras. Basically, successful cooking is achieved by experience and always watching the process like a hawk. Plus wood stove ovens cook in a very different way from electric or gas ovens. So when we specify "half an hour at 350°", you'll need to carefully watch what you're cooking and make necessary corrections for your own stove's behavior.

Recipes & inspirations

Meg's Autumn Stuffed Squash

Pre-bake squash 1/2 hr in moderate oven, buttered.

Add oiled nuts, mixed, then layer butter and brown sugar, followed by apple on top, in the squash seed cavity. Be sure to coat the hazelnuts in a little melted butter before cooking, to keep them from taking up water and getting soggy.

Bake an additional 20–30 min, to your taste. The cooking can be stopped while the chestnuts and apples still have a little crunch to them or continued until they are soft; longer cooking can begin to caramelize the squash and apples.

Other additions: sausage, onion, chicken, turkey; always including both nuts and apples. With or without meat, a half squash stuffed this way can easily be a substantial complete meal; main course and dessert all in one. We like it.

Badgersett Polyglot Porkchops

We made a little discovery, in the process of testing recipes.

We do a lot of our shopping in the Iowa town of Decorah. Pretty much every day, they have what they call "Iowa Chops" for sale. These are big, beautiful, thick centercut porkchops, at least 1-1/4" thick, usually 1-1/2". Perfect for stuffing. And since stuffing is one of the classic uses for chestnuts, naturally…

But we wanted to try out several kinds of stuffing, and try hazels as part of the mix, so we carefully cut pockets in both sides of the centercut chops, giving us 4 pockets. And we tried 4 different ideas.

Alas, every one of them worked just fine. And we discovered it was much more fun eating stuffed chops where each side was different. We shared, too, in order to test the recipes, of course. Now we will never be able to go back to "monolithic" stuffings. The variety, and never quite being sure what the next bite will contain or taste like, is just way too much fun.

The chestnuts here should be cooked before they are stuffed—raw chestnuts will come out very crunchy. Hazels should go in oiled, raw.

These are nut based chop stuffings we've tried so far. Some of them represent rather different uses of materials or mixtures of spices, but they've all been yummy. The very "foody" flavor of chestnuts blends surprisingly well with spices commonly associated with meat. "Nuts" means both kinds were included.

Chestnut-Pumpkin Dressing (Gluten Free)

This is a rich and gluten-free version of Brandon's popular chestnut-and-bread dressing. Takes a fairly large casserole and a couple of person-hours in preparation (most enjoyable as a family-and-friends effort), but gets the attention and gratitude of the folks who eat it. Brandon mostly has done these dressings "as he goes" and has only written down recipes this past year, so feel free to experiment a bit with the seasoning and proportions. Seasoning amounts are for dried herbs, but use fresh if you can. This recipe probably makes about ten hearty servings.

Whew! Now that we've got that established, do the following: halve the pumpkin and bake until just barely "done"; firm but peelable. This will probably take 30 minutes or so at 400 F. While the pumpkin is baking (or even before, if you don't have help), halve, parboil and peel the chestnuts, then finish microwaving or boiling them also until just barely done; they should still have some crunch to them. Cut larger chestnut pieces in half again, making quarters. Once you have this done, and the apples and onions are prepared, you're ready to start putting things together. About this time (or maybe before) the pumpkin might be done; peel and cube it, and set the oven to 350°.

Now, in a large flameproof casserole or dutch oven, fry the bacon until just crisp, remove and set aside. Brown the sausage over medium-high heat, then add half of the onions, continuing to saute until the onion turns clear. At this point add the celery, raisins, and the remaining onion. Cook until the onions just start to clear, then mix in the apples, garlic, chestnuts, and spices (except salt and pepper) turning to coat with grease. Add the pumpkin, stock, salt and pepper, then cover and bake until pleasantly tender, about an hour and a half. If you're in a hurry because all this prep took you a long time, you can increase the amount of stock and simmer on the stovetop; this will be ready in closer to 45 minutes, but on the moist side.

Chestnut–Seafood Dressing (Gluten Free)

Chestnuts and seafood go together extraordinarily well, though it's not a combination that immediately occurs to most cooks. We use this in our Thanksgiving turkey, and it's delightful. You want to shoot for a combination of ingredients that winds up about 60% chestnuts, 40% seafood. Our last version went like this:

Mix thoroughly. We add lemon pepper to taste; a little can be quite subtle but critical. Traditional sage–onion–sausage type seasonings also work with the seafood and chestnut combination.

Not all of this will fit in the bird, most likely; we put the rest in a covered casserole and get it hot through. While the bird-cooked stuffing is quite moist, the casserole version may want some liquid added to prevent dryness, or toss the two together to serve. We line the serving bowl with crisp thick-cut bacon pieces, 1" square, under the dressing. Lethally luxurious.

Phil's Christmas Eve Clam & Chestnut Chowder

At Badgersett Farm, it is our tradition to put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve (German style). Of course this makes things hectic, so we try to have a simple meal, easy to prepare. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be special, and over the past few years I’ve put this recipe together after lots of experimentation (this is a research farm, remember).

The chestnuts add a very special twist to the salty, sea-flavored chowder; they blend beautifully. Of course you can make your own chowder from scratch, and likewise you can substitute more chestnuts for some of the potatoes in the chowder, though this can be tricky. If the chestnuts are somewhat dried, and thus sweeter than usual, you might wind up with a chowder that is too sweet for some palates.

Ingredients:

First make the usual cut through the chestnuts' shells and set them to roasting; they should be completely precooked before being added to the chowder (long simmering will darken them, giving the chowder a muddy look). Open the soup cans and put it to heat in a heavy pan, on low heat: NEVER allow the chowder to boil! (Boiling will make the clams as tough as bits of old tractor tires.) Stir in the canned crab and clams, adding their liquid to the chowder. Fry the bacon until just crisp; chop into 1/4" bits and add half to the chowder, reserving the other half. When the chestnuts are done, peel and clean them of pellicle (brown skin), then chop into 1/4" slices. Add the chestnuts when the chowder approaches a simmer, and serve within 10 minutes. Put into pre-heated bowls; add a pat of butter in the center of each serving, and some freshly grated pepper, and sprinkle the remaining bacon over top of all.

Crab, shrimp, butter, and bacon all are high in cholesterol- be aware.

If you make any highly successful adaptations to this recipe, we’d love to hear about them.
Serves 4-8, depending on how hungry (or greedy!) they are. Probability of leftovers is extremely low.

*(of course you can make your own chowder from scratch... but that adds hours...)

Warning: one friend who tried this recipe reported that his family found it “too rich to eat!!” We’ve never found that a problem, since we consider it a special indulgence...

Extreme Potato Topping

Take 3–4 medium-sized, well-roasted chestnuts per potato. Mash them into dry crumbs with a fork. Mix them into the preferred topping, either sour cream, ranch, or bleu cheese dressing, about 1/3 chestnuts to 2/3 dressing. Add to your baked potato and enjoy!

Susan's hazelnut cake

For Meg's birthday, Susan adapted her old family recipe from the Ohio Amish for hickory nut cake, using lots of chopped hazelnuts both in the cake and in the frosting—terrific! Here are her proportions for the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together dry ingredients and then beat in butter, milk, and vanilla. Mix in hazelnuts and finally fold in egg whites gently. Good Luck! Use your favorite frosting recipe, and if you want to add hazels to that, too, you'll need another half cup or so.

For the following, use your own favorite recipes with the following additions:

Apple Hazelnut Pie

Add a cup of oiled raw hazels to your apple pie recipe. They will add a flavorful crunchy twist, but long cooking may make them soggy.

Hazelnut–Peanut butter cookies

Add hazelnuts to your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. This combination is really something special! Quantities are a matter of taste; just a few hazels make quite a difference. You definitely want raw hazels for this, and they do not have to be oiled or blanched. We prefer whole nuts to chopped. The nuts may turn soggy if the cookies are stored more than a day or so.

Brown Sugar Hazelnut Shortbread

Pioneers rarely had white sugar; far more common were brown sugar, molasses, or maple. This simple shortbread is so just plain good that it will disappear in no time if you aren't very careful!

Combine flour, butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Fingers work best towards the end of the process. The dough will be crumbly. Add the raw hazelnuts—whole nuts or coarsely chopped, or a combination—after other ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

You can either pat the dough down into a lightly buttered cake pan, so it is about 1 inch thick, or make it into cookies. Bake the large shortbread in a 300° oven for about 45 minutes—it should be a light toasty brown. Often the top of the shortbread was decorated with patterns pricked into the dough with a fork. Cut it into wedges or squares when hot; allow to cool at least a little, or burned tongues will result!

To make cookies, take about 2 tablespoons of dough and form into patties about 1/2" thick. Allow room for them to spread on the cookie sheet; bake at 300° for 25-30 minutes. Check often to see they don't burn (the aroma will drive your family crazy!). Let them cool halfway before removing from the cookie sheet, or they may crumble.

More coming soon! Send us your experiences!

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