Japanese style low sugar chestnut compote (栗の渋皮煮; Kuri no shibukawani)

Healthier makeover of Japanese Autumn favorites, Chestnut compote made low sugar using sucanut sugar.
Polyphenol-rich chestnuts’ brown membrane (渋皮) adds extra benefits to this compote as antioxidants as well adding nice and rich flavor!
Great to be used in baking such as muffins, tarts or scones or be eaten by itself of course.
Try this healthy chestnut compote and cerebrate autumn deliciousness! 

chestnut compote

What I feel fortunate about living in Japan is that we  live with seasons. 
We have four distinctive seasons and each season has “symbols” such as food that comes around, traditional events or festivals that we look forward to.
I know some of them are promoted by companies for marketing purpose, but still, seeing these “symbols” on TV commercials, in shops or restaurants helps us to remind of and connect with seasons and ultimately, with nature.

And chestnuts are one of most popular foods during autumn season in Japan.

Around September many food companies, restaurant and shops start to produce various chestnut products, from chestnut muffin, chestnut tart, chestnut buns, chocolates or more savory items such as chestnut pasta or rice, you name it.

Chestnuts

  Every late September I get reminded by a chestnut tree in my neighbor that the autumn is coming when it  starts to “drop” its big chestnuts burr.
I enjoy picking up some of those for my chestnut compotes but unfortunately it didn’t produce much chestnuts this year.

Luckily a chestnut tree in my dad’s veggie garden grew enough to produce chestnuts and I get to receive many of them.

 

chestnuts

what is Kuri no shibukawani (栗の渋皮煮)

So what should you do if you have fresh chestnuts?

My “go to” dish to make with chestnuts is this Japanese style chestnut compotes(栗の渋皮煮; Kuri no shibukawa ni)!
I like making this dish because not only you can enjoy eating by itself but also you can use leftover chestnuts to create new item such as muffin, tart, or even buns!

Shibukawa or 渋皮 is thin brown membrane under hard shell of chestnut. 
I like leaving this membrane rather than peeling it off because it gives the chestnuts pleasant aroma.
Also the Shibukawa is very high in polyphenols, chemical compounds that are thought to have various health benefits due to its antioxidant property.

However the high amount of polyphenols in Shibukawa are the culprit of  bitter taste and while polyphenols that appear to offer many benefits may cause adverse effects if taken in excessive amounts.

We call them “Shibu 渋” (meaning “bitter”.

Thus we call ” the thin membrane “shibu- kawa“渋(bitter)皮(membrane)

Thus you need to prepare chestnuts and remove too much Shibu渋 before you start cooking them and it takes a bit of an effort.

But don’t worry!

I’ll show you step  by step instructions of  how to prepare chestnuts properly. 

Are you ready? Lets’ bet started!

how to make Japanese style chestnut compotbe

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what you need

      • fresh chestnuts in hard shell
      • baking soda
      • sucanat sugar (20% in weight of chestnuts after shells removed)
      • rum liquor (optional)
      • Sea salt 

Chestnuts;

If you see fresh raw chestnuts in your local market, get those! 
Bigger ones are better for this recipe because they can become harder after cooking long time if top small.

You can prepared as much as you want but I would recommend you to start from smaller quantity, say 500- 600g (18oz ~21oz)

〜How to choose fresh chestnuts 〜

choose chestnuts ;

    • with shinier and smooth shells (v.s. dry and ‘wrinkled’) 
    • that are rounder (rather than flatter)
    • heavier 
    • lighter color on the bottom

Baking soda;

You need baking soda when you pre-boil chestnuts to remove Shibu 渋. 

Roles of baking soda;

      •  helps removing Shibu 渋 in shorter time
      • helps soften Shibukawa 渋皮

Sucanut sugar;

Sucanut sugar is  cane sugar that is made by drying cane sugar juice.
It is least refined cane sugar and contains nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium and chromium and is much more healthier than white processed sugar.

Unrefined sugar like this sucanut sugar or other “natural’ sugars such as maple syrup or honey retain some vitamins and minerals that are required for the body to process sugar and are much healthier options for you as a sweetener. 

Also natural flavor of sucanat sugar adds nice and rich flavor to end product of chestnuts. 

 See Sucanat sugar v.s. white sugar nutrient comparison

It IS still sugar though, so of course too much of anything is not good for your body and needs to be used in moderation.
In this recipe I used only 20% of sugar to unshelled chestnuts in weight.

In regular chestnut compotes, usually 60% or more sugar is used so this chestnut compote contains A LOT less sugar and is healthier than regular ones.

Optional flavors;

You can add a flavor such as rum or brandy at the end of cooking if you like.
You would not want to use liquor if your are cooking for your kids though

preparing of chestnuts

  1. Soak chestnuts over night 
    The night before you make chestnuts compote, fill a big mixing bowl with warm water and add shell-in chestnuts.
    Leave for 8-12 hours to help soften the shells.
Soaking chestnuts
Soaking chestnuts

2. Remove outer hard shell

Drain chestnuts and peel the outer hard shells.
Make sure you do not remove thin brown membrane under the shell(Shibukawa). 
The key is to make a “slit” in the shell near the top of chestnuts with the edge of your knife and detach from the meat by pulling toward yourself. 
Keep the unshelled chestnuts in the water while working on other ones.

 

After removing all the shells check the weight of unshelled chestnuts to determine how much sugar you are going to use.
(Or you can refer the recipe below and follow the amount of chestnuts and sugar that I used instead)

You are going to 20% of sugar  in contrast to chestnuts in weight.
For example my 600g (21oz) of chestnuts weighed 504g(18oz).
So I am going to use 504g× 0.2(20%)≈100g  of sucanat sugar.
(180z×20%≈3.6oz)

Chestnuts after shells removed
Chestnuts after shell removed

removing excess polyphenols

As I talked earlier, you need to remove excess polyphenols (Shibu 渋) by boiling chestnuts with baking soda.

3. Boil chestnuts with baking soda

 Place unshelled chestnuts in a large pot.
Fill with plenty of water to cover chestnuts, add 2tsp of baking soda and bring it to boil.
Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
You will see large amount of dark purple bubbles come up to the surface.

These are polyphenols or Shibu渋!

boiling chestnuts
boiling chestnuts

4.  Drain and remove “veins” of chestnuts 

Gently drain the chestnuts.
Rinse and rub off the skin (Shibukawa 渋皮) of each chestnut with freshwater 
**Chestnuts can be fragile especially after being boiled a few times so treat them as gently as you can to avoid chestnuts getting broken.**
Remove the thick “veins” of chestnuts that run from the top to the bottom using needle like stick such as toothpick.
Be careful not to remove the Shibukawa 渋皮!

5. Repeat ‘boiling process’ twice.

Repeat the same boiling process of step 3 and draining part of step 4 (no “removing skin” part). 
Make sure to rinse the Shibu渋 off  from the pot each time before boiling.
In the last boiling, use just water without baking soda to remove excess baking soda. 
By this time you have done boiling three times and you will notice the color of boiling water becomes lighter.

Chestnuts after boiled
How chestnuts look after being boiled

cook chestnuts

1.cooking chestnuts

Wash the pot before starting cooking.

Place chestnuts back to the same pot, add water that is just enough to cover the chestnuts together with half amount of the sugar. 
Bring to boil over medium heat, turn to lowest heat once it starts to boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the rest of sugar and cook another 10 minutes or until the water reduced in half.

Optional liquor;

If you choose to add liquor, add it after cooking total of 20 minutes. Rise the heat until it starts to boil to allow alcohol to evaporate, and remove from the heat.

2.  Leave it over night or 8-12 hours.

I recommend leaving chestnuts with syrup overnight or about half day. This step helps the chestnuts absorb the syrup making them more flavorful. 
You can try one or two beforehand of course!

3.  Now you can enjoy chestnut compote or transfer to sterilized glass container to keep them .

You can enjoy these healthier Japanese style chestnut compote (栗の渋皮煮)as it is or incorporate into your favorite baking recipe such as muffin, scone or tart. 
To save for later, keep them in sterilized glass container or a large jar. 
(To sterilize it, simply place it in a pot with water, bring to boil and boil for 1-2 minutes, and drain.)

Note: 
This chestnut compote is mush lower in sugar than regular compotes and thus, it does not keep well. 
You can keep it in fridge for 3-4 days. If you want to keep it longer please keep in the freezer. 

Chestnut compote in container

It does take an effort to make this chestnuts compote, but it worth trying I promise!!

Why don’t you go to your local farmers market and find fresh chestnuts?

And try this beautiful Japanese style chestnut compote and enjoy autumn flavor!

What is autumn  “symbol” food for you?

If you try this recipe let me know your experience. 

Please leave  your comments, suggestions or any questions.

And if you try this recipe add your photos on instagram and tag #living_my_nature!!

I look forward to hear from you!!

Thank you!!

recipe makeover suggestion

How about using these chestnuts as filling instead of Edamame paste? 

Check out my GLUTEN FREE ZUNDA (EDAMAME) FILLED MUFFINS

for the recipe!

shopping

*Please read the instruction above very carefully before starting to cook so that you understand the steps*

Japanese style low sugar chestnut compote (栗の渋皮煮; Kuri no shibukawani)

Healthier makeover of Japanese Autumn favorites, Chestnut compote made low sugar using sucanut sugar.
Polyphenol-rich chestnuts' brown membrane (渋皮) adds extra benefits to this compote as antioxidants as well adding nice and rich flavor!
Great to be used in baking such as muffins, tarts or scones or be eaten by itself of course.
Course Dessert/ snack, Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese inspired
Keyword dairy free, egg free, gluten free, healthy, Japanese inspired, low sugar, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Author Mio

Equipment

  • Large pot

Ingredients

  • 600 g (21oz) fresh shelled chestnuts - see recipe note below (*1)
  • 4 tsp baking soda - (2tsp×2)
  • 100 g (3.6oz) sucanat sugar - See the recipe note below (*1)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp rum or brandy - (optional)

Instructions

Preparing chestnuts

  • The night before;
    Fill a big mixing bowl with warm water and add shell-in chestnuts.
    Leave for 8-12 hours to help soften the shells.
  • After soaking, drain chestnuts and peel the outer hard shells.
    Be careful not to remove thin brown membrane. Remove JUST OUTER SHELLS by making a “slit” in the shell near the top of chestnuts with the edge of the knife and detach from the meat by pulling toward yourself. 
    Keep the unshelled chestnuts in the water while working on other ones.

Removing excess polyphenols (Shibu 渋)

  •  Place unshelled chestnuts in a large pot.
    Fill with plenty of water to cover chestnuts, add baking soda and bring it to boil.
    Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. You will see large amount of dark purple bubbles come up to the surface. These are polyphenols or Shibu渋.
  • Gently drain the chestnuts.
    Rinse and rub off the skin (Shibukawa 渋皮) each chestnut with freshwater 
    **Chestnuts can be fragile after being boiled a few times so treat them as gently as you can to avoid chestnuts getting broken.**
  • Remove the thick “veins” of chestnuts that run from the top to the bottom of chestnut using needle like stick such as toothpick.
    Be careful not to remove the Shibukawa 渋皮!
  • Repeat the same boiling process of step 1 and draining part of step 2 (no “removing skin” part). In the last boiling, use just water without baking soda to remove excess baking soda.  By this time you have done boiling three times.

Cooking chestnuts

  • Wash the pot before starting cooking.
    Place chestnuts back to the same pot, add water that is just enough to cover the chestnuts together with half amount of the sugar. 
  • Bring to boil over medium heat, turn to lowest heat once it starts to boil and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of sugar and cook another 10 minutes or until the water reduced in half.
  • Adding liquor(optional);
    If you choose to add liquor, add it after cooking total of 20 minutes. Rise the heat until it starts to boil to allow alcohol to evaporate, and remove from the heat.
  • Leave final product overnight or about 8-12 hours to help the chestnuts absorb the syrup. 
  • Now you can enjoy chestnut compote or transfer to sterilized glass container to keep them. See the recipe note below(*2)

Notes

*1; If you are going to make the compote with less or more chestnuts, I recommend you to weigh un shelled chestnuts to come up with the amount of sugar you are going to need.
Amount of sugar used: 20% of weight in  contrast to chestnuts.
For example my  600g (21oz) of shell-in chestnuts weighed 504g(18oz) after un-shelled.
So I am going to use 504g× 0.2(20%)≈100g  of sucanat sugar.
(180z×20%≈3.6oz)
For sucanat sugar, I wold recommend Wholesome's Organic Sucanat sugar
*2; To sterilize the jar, simply place it in a pot with water, bring to boil and  leave for 1-2 minutes, and drain.
*3;This chestnut compote is mush lower in sugar than regular compotes and thus, it does not keep well.
You can keep it in fridge for 3-4 days. If you want to keep it longer please keep in the freezer.

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This recipe and content of this blog are created by Living My Nature. Please refrain from using it as your own and contact me if you would like to share.
Thank you!

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