A Fall Standard - Chestnuts Cooked in Syrup

A Fall Standard - Chestnuts Cooked in Syrup

Chestnuts cooked in syrup are sooo expensive if you buy them. With a little effort you can make them at home. I make them every year in the fall, taking my time and using a bit of elbow grease, to use in kinton for New Years. This is our family's recipe.


as much as you want to make
80% of the peeled chestnuts in weight
10% of the sugar
Alum powder (myouban)
1 tablespoon
Dried gardenia seeds (kuchinashi)
1 to 2


1. Wash the chestnuts to remove any dirt, and put into a pan of boiling water. It will foam up quite a bit, so simmer the chestnuts until the foam dies down. Cool down by running cold water from the tap over them.
2. Prepare yourself. Wrap your finger where it hits the knife with a triple layer of adhesive bandages for protection.
3. Start peeling the chestnuts. Cut off the pointy end first...
4. And peel the outer shell off from there.
5. Next, peel off the inner skin. Peel off the sides as if you were peeling an apple wedge from top to bottom.
6. Peel the center parts next. For the flat bottom, cut into it on the left and right and it should come off cleanly.
7. If any brown parts, like pictured, remain the chestnuts won't have a nice finish, so although it may seem wasteful cut them off confidently. Also, if the entire peel came easily trim any discoloration.
8. Put the chestnuts as you peel them in a pot of water containing the dissolved alum.
9. The alum (myouban) is used to 1) prevent the chestnuts from falling apart, 2) to fix the color and 3) get rid of any bitterness. If you can't get any, you can just leave it out.
10. When all the chestnuts are peeled, start boiling them. If you let them boil too fast and they're dancing around in the water they will fall part, and if the heat is too low only the outsides will get cooked and will disintegrate, so cook them over medium heat, just low enough so that they don't dance around. Boil for about 5 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Do not to let the pot boil over.
11. Drain the chestnuts into a colander, and run cold water over them gently. When they have cooled down a bit, check each chestnut for any remaining skin. As I am pointing to with my thumb in the photo, take off any brown parts at this time too.
12. Put the chestnuts back in the pot, and cook them in plain water this time. Change the water once it comes to a boil, and bring to a boil again.
13. Drain the chestnuts, and weigh them at this point. I had 580 g this time.
14. Return the chestnuts to the pot. Add water and gardenia seeds that have been put onto a tea bag and crushed.
15. When the chestnuts have become tender, measure out 80% of the weight of the chestnuts (that you weighed in Atep 13) in sugar (460 g this time). Add about half of the sugar to the pot, and simmer gently over low heat.
16. When the liquid is getting syrupy and shiny, turn the heat off and take the chestnuts out. If the chestnuts are yellow enough at this point, remove the gardenia seeds, too.
17. Add the rest of the sugar to the remaining syrup. If the sugar won't dissolve, add water little by little, until it's just at the point where the sugar will melt. When the sugar has dissolved completely and you have a thick syrup, add 10% of the weight of the sugar in mirin (46 g) and bring to a boil.
18. Return the chestnuts to the syrup and bring to a boil. Pack into boiled sterilized jars.
19. The next day, return the syrup only to the pan and bring it to a boil. It should have become thin due to the moisture from the chestnuts, so simmer it down until it is thick.
20. If you over-reduce the syrup and there isn't enough to cover the chestnuts, follow Step 17 and add more sugar and water to increase the amount.
21. Put the chestnuts back in the jar, and they are done. Store in a cool, dark place, or in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator.

Story Behind this Recipe

I adapted a recipe I learned when I was a student in a food processing class to make it easier to make at home. If I had a fruit refractometer (sugar measuring device), I could make a version that can be stored for a long time at room temperature, but...!!