If you're travelling in Turkey and venture to Bursa, the country's fourth largest city, you must do as the locals do. Stop by and enjoy one of Turkey's most prized regional delicacies -- candied chestnuts, better known as "kestane şekeri" (kes-tahn-EH' sheh-keyr-EE').
Known as marron glacés in French cuisine, candied chestnuts have been a specialty in this deeply historical region of Turkey for hundreds of years.
These sweets date back to the 1300s when Bursa was capitol of the Ottoman Empire. Today, candied chestnuts from Bursa are famous all over the country and exported to over 70 countries around world.
Folks come from far and wide to stock up on jars and decorative boxes of candied chestnuts to enjoy at home and to give as special gifts. So why did Bursa become the candied chestnut capitol among other things?
Simply because the best and plumpest chestnuts in Turkey come from the hilly, forested terrain surrounding Bursa. No wonder it's also known as the "green" city.
If you can't make it to Bursa, all isn't lost. You can make Turkish-style candied chestnuts wherever you are.
They're actually very simple to prepare. All you need are good quality, freshly picked chestnuts, sugar and water.
The most difficult task is to peel and parboil them just right so the chestnuts remain whole. Try this traditional Turkish confection and get a taste of history.
- 1 kilogram/2.5 pounds large, fresh chestnuts
- 5 cups sugar
- 5 cups water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
- First, using a sturdy knife with a serrated edge, remove the outer shells of the chestnuts.
- Place the "peeled" chestnuts in a large saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the chestnuts sit in the scalding water until the inner membranes get soft.
- Drain the chestnuts and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle. Next, carefully peel off the inner membranes.
- In another saucepan, combine the water, sugar and optional vanilla. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until the sugar melts. Add the peeled chestnuts and turn the heat to low. Let the chestnuts sit in the scalding water without boiling for about two hours with no lid.
- After two hours, remove the pan from the stove and let it sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, test a chestnut. It should be very tender and sweet but still hold it's shape.
- You can store your candied chestnuts together with the syrup in a glass jar, or remove each one from the syrup and wrap it in a square of decorative foil.
- Candied chestnuts go very well with coffee and look lovely arranged on a decorative platter. You can also fill candy boxes with candied chestnuts wrapped in colored foil and give them as gifts.