Remove the shells of the chestnuts. Pre-soaking the chestnuts in boiling water for 30 minutes to 1 hour makes this process easier. You can use a chestnut peeler if you have one. Remove the shell from the base, peeling it toward the top.
Be careful not to peel the inner skins. There may be some black fibers from the shell remaining, but these will come off after the repeated boiling process.
Soak the shelled chestnuts in a bowl of water (filled to cover chestnuts) with 2 teaspoons od baking soda for 2-3 hours.
Rinse the chestnuts, then put in a pot. Add the chestnuts with 2 teaspoons baking soda, gently bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat, removing any scum that rises to the top. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Rinse the chestnuts carefully one by one. Using the pads of your fingers, rub the surface while rinsing. Do not try to remove the black fibers that remain.
Repeat Steps 4 and 5. After repeating, gently remove the remaining black fibers with a skewer or toothpick.
If you are not pressed for time, boil the chestnuts once more for 10 minutes without baking soda. Rinse and soak overnight to remove the remaining baking soda. The following day, rinse well.
If the chestnuts are still hard, or if the boiled water deeply blackens after this repeated process of removing the astringency, boil 1-2 more times.
Put the sugar and chestnuts in a pot, fill with just enough water to cover the chestnuts (about 800 ml), cover with aluminum foil to serve as a drop-lid, then heat.
Attention! After bringing to a gentle boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Be sure that the heat is low enough so that the chestnuts do not roll around and be sure to cover with a drop-lid.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool. They taste even better if you let them sit overnight. Store the chestnuts and syrup in a sterilized jar and store in the fridge.
I recommend straining the syrup first. Also, if you like, simmer the syrup briefly after removing the chestnuts.
I used a lot of love in making these. My precious little gems.
While the broken ones might not look pretty, they're also tasty, with the flavors all absorbed. Use them for making other desserts.
I updated the photos in the steps on September 27, 2013. (The steps are the same.)
Purée them into chestnut paste and use it for a variety of sweets. (See Recipe ID: 2364987)
Story Behind this Recipe
I've been making these for a decade. I used to rely on a recipe from a book or magazine, but adjusted it for myself to make them tastier, and have finally settled on this recipe.
Handle the chestnuts carefully. If you scratch through the inner skins, they will break apart when boiling. Do your best not to peel the inner skins. Since the amount of sugar is moderate, store in the refrigerator. They should keep for about a week. They can also be stored in the freezer. For a delightful accent, try adding brandy to the candied chestnuts.