I offered to post this recipe if anyone was interested, and someone was. This was originally posted elsewhere last November.
While putting up preserves over the summer, I came across a recipe for Chestnut Jam with Vanilla and Rum, which sounded so good that I determined to make some as soon as I could get good chestnuts. On Monday, I found chestnuts at the grocery store and bought 6 lbs. On Tuesday, I peeled 6 lbs. of chestnuts. On Wednesday, I made (and canned) about 8 pints of the most luscious chestnut cream imaginable. Recipe and method follow.
Recipe paraphrased from Hillaire Walden
Chestnut Jam with Vanilla and Rum
± 2 3/4 LBS unpeeled chestnuts
1 vanilla bean
3 C light brown sugar
2 TBSP dark rum
Peel the chestnuts however you see fit.
Put peeled chestnuts and vanilla bean in large sauce pan and just cover with water. Cover pan and bring to a boil; simmer until chestnuts are tender (about 30 min.). Remove and set aside vanilla bean. Drain chestnuts, reserving cooking liquid. Purée chestnuts. There should be about 2 2/3 cups of purée.
Put purée, sugar, and 7 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid in heavy pan. Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add seeds and bean to pan. Heat mixture gently, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, then raise heat and boil until mixture is thick. Remove and discard vanilla bean; stir in rum.
Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, seal, and process in water bath.
Because I had 6 lbs. of chestnuts, I planned on approximately doubling the recipe. So I used 2 vanilla beans.
The reserved liquid was required at the purée step all of it, plus about a cup of tap water elsewise, puréeing would have been impossible. Even so, the purée was as thick as good mashed potatoes. And there was closer to 10 cups of it (not 5 1/3, as would have been expected [if the original recipe was accurate]).
The purée, at this point, seemed a little rough, and there were specks of chopped peel in it, since thoroughly peeling a chestnut is nearly impossible. For mortals, anyway. So I took the extra and compulsive step of working the paste through a very fine tamis. The result was a perfectly velvety salaciously smooth purée.
If I were to have followed the proportions of the recipe, my reckoning is that I should have used upwards of 2 lbs. of sugar which seemed excessive to me. So I decided to start with a pound. So I put the purée and the scraped-out vanilla beans and 1 pound of (dark) brown sugar into the pot, along with about a cup of water and a generous pinch of salt. And I whisked it well until it was smoothly combined. And I tasted it...and the sugar level seemd just right. Any more, and you wouldn't have tasted the chestnuts. In retrospect, I would probably use light brown sugar if I were to make it again (which there is every possibility of).
As for boiling the mixture until thick: it already seemed reasonably thick, so I only boiled it for about 15 minutes. And anyway, thickness in this case is entirely subjective. I tried to imagine how thick I'd want my chestnut "jam", and how I'd use it (and I didn't get much farther the "Hmm. Um, eat it off a spoon?") and I just kind of intuited a not-very-thick chestnut "jam".
For rum, I used Cruzan Black Strap Rum, which seemed to finish the deal just right.
Well. So. Then I canned it. Put it up in pretty little hex-jars with gold-tone lids. And I'll gift the very special with it come the hols. And eat no small amount of it myself, no doubt. I can hardly describe how good it is.