Chestnuts were far more popular during the 19th century than today. One of the reasons for this is the blight that hit the U.S. during the first half of the 20th Century. However, today we can find chestnuts in the stores during the holidays.
Below are some recipes that your historical characters might have used or eaten during the 19th Century.
Chestnut Stuffing. — Shell one quart of large chestnuts. Pour on boiling water, and remove the inner brown skin. Boil in salted water or stock till soft. Mash fine. Take half for the stuffing, and mix with it one cup of fine cracker crumbs; season with one teaspoonful of salt, one saltspoonful of pepper, and one teaspoonful of chopped parsley. Moisten with one third of a cup of melted butter. Professional cooks sometimes mix a little apple sauce, flavored with wine, lemon, and sugar, with a chestnut stuffing.
Chestnut Sauce. — Remove the fat from the drippingpan; add nearly a pint of hot water; thicken with flour which has been cooked in brown butter; add salt and pepper, and the remainder of the chestnuts.
Source: Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book ©1891
Italian Chestnut Soup.—(Old Recipe.)—Mince finely two small onions, one carrot, two leeks, and a quarter of a stick of celery. Fry all brown in butter, season with salt, and stew in a quart of stock for one hour. Take three or four dozen chestnuts according to size, peel off the first shell, put them in a chestnutpan, and stir them about till they are sufficiently cooked for the second shell to be removed. Stew them for half an hour in half the prepared liquor. Set apart the whole chestnuts to garnish the soup. Chop the remainder and strain through a sieve with the liquor they have been stewed in. Add the rest of the stock, simmer over a slow fire for six or seven minutes, place the whole chestnuts in the tureen and pour the soup over.
Italian Chestnut Stew.—Mince finely two small onions and a sprig of rosemary, and fry them brown in butter. Add two pounds of meat or chicken or turkey cut into small pieces, half a pint of red Italian wine vinegar (this is often considered more delicate than French vinegar), a pint and a half of stock with three ounces of tomato conserve dissolved in it, and a pinch of salt. Stew over a slow fire for forty minutes. Add three or four dozen chestnuts prepared as for the soup in the last recipe, stew all over a slow fire for an hour and a quarter, adding more stock if necessary. Dish with the meat in the centre, and the chestnuts arranged round it.
Source: Mrs. Roundell's Practical Cookery Book ©1898
Shell and blanch about one and one-half pints chestnuts; boil in one quart of water; add one root celery cut into pieces, one slice onion, one bay leaf; when tender, drain and mash while hot; add one teaspoon onion juice, one teaspoon salt, one tablespoon butter, a little cayenne; mix; form into cylinders; dip in egg and bread crumbs and fry in hot fat. Mrs. Barber.
Source: Cook Book of Tried Recipes ©1897
Chestnut Forcemeat, for Roast Fowl.—Roast and peel a dozen large chestnuts; boil them for about twenty minutes in some strong veal gravy, drain, and, when cold, put them into a mortar, blanch and mince them, with the liver of the fowl, a tea-Bpoonful of grated ham, a tea-spoonful of salt, half a teaspoonful of pepper, a tea-spoonful of chopped onions, a small pinch of grated lemon-rind, three grains of cayenne, two table-spoonfuls of breadcrumbs, a piece of butter the size of a walnut, and the yolks of two eggs. Pound the dry ingredients in a mortar, and moisten them with the butter and eggs. This forcemeat is excellent for a large fowl. Time to prepare, about twenty minutes. Probable cost of chestnuts, 2d. or 3d. per pint. This quantity will serve for one large fowl.
Chestnut Pudding.—Take some chestnuts, and make a little incision in the skin of each one, throw them into boiling water, and let them remain until tender. Remove the shells and skins, dry them in the oven, and afterwards pound them to powdor. Mix half a pound of this powder with six ounces of butter beaten to a cream, two table-spoonfuls of sifted sugar, two or three drops of tho essence of vanilla, a breakfast-cupful of milk, and six wellbeaten eggs. Stir these well together, then pour the mixture into a wcll-buttercd mould, place a piece of buttered writing paper over the top, and steam for an hour and a half, or, if preferred, bako in a good oven. Servo with wine sauce. Probable cost, Is. 3d. Sufficient for four or five persons.
Chestnut Sauce, Brown.—Prepare the chestnuts as in tho following recipe, but instead of adding cream or milk to the paste, mix them with a little good brown gravy, and season the sauce rather highly. Time to roast the chestnuts, according to the quality. Probable cost, 2d. or 3d. per pint. Sufficient for one roast fowl.
Chestnut Sauce, White.—Roast a dozen chestnuts until quite tender, then remove tho brown rind and the skin under it, and put them into a mortar with a tea-spoonful of salt, half a tea-spoonful of pepper, half a tea-spoonful of sifted sugar, and a piece of butter about the sizo of a walnut. Pound these together to a smooth paste, which must be put into a saucepan, and mixed with a breakfast-cupful of milk or cream; stir the liquid till it boils. This sauce is excellent for boiled fowls. Time to roast the chestnuts, varying with the quality. Probable cost, 2d. or 3d. per pint, if made with milk. Sufficient for one fowl.
Chestnut Soup.—Take off the outer rind from fifty chestnuts, and put them into a saucepan of cold water. Place them on the fire, and when the water is just upon the point of boiling, take them out and remove tho under skin. Stew them in sufficient stock to cover them until quite tender; put thorn in a mortar, and pound them to a paste, reserving a dozen to bo placed whole in the soup just before it is dished. Pound with the paste two tablespoonfuls of broad-crumbs, two tea-spoonfuls of salt, half a tea-spoonful of pepper, and half a nutmeg grated. Mix with it very gradually the stock in which the chestnuts were boiled, if its sweetness is not objected to, allowing a quart of the mixture and a pint of milk to every quart of stock. Boil all together onco more, with tho chestnuts which were reserved, and if the soup is too thick, add a little more stock. Before serving, place somo fried sippets in tho tureen. The stock may bo either made from meat or from vegetables alone. Time, two and a half hours. [Sufficient for eight or nino persons. Probable cost, exclusive of the stock, 1 Od. per quart.
Chestnuts, Compdte of.—Take thirty large chestnnts, peel on tho outer brown skin, ana put them into a saucepan of cold water. When tho water is just on the point of boiling, take them off, romovo the second skin, and be careful not to break tho chestnuts. Make a syrup with a breakfast-cupful of water and a quarter of a pound of sugar, adding a glass of shorry and tho rind of half an orange or a lemon cut very thin. Put the chestnuts into this, and let them simmer gentlv for twenty minutes. Strain tho syrup over the chestnuts, and serve hot. Sift a little sugar ovor them. Time, abont forty minutes. Probable cost, chestnuts.
3d. or 4d. per pint. The above quantity will make a moderate-sized dish.
Chestnuts, Pur6e of.—Take fifty large chostnuts—those are the best which have no division, and, when the skin is removed, are entire. Take off the outer brown skin, and boil the chestnuts until the inner skin will come off easily, when it also must be removedHaving done this, put the chestnuts into a saucepan with sufficient white stock to cover them, and boil them gently until they are quite soft, when thoy must be pressed, while hot, through a wire sieve. Tho pulp must then oo put into a stewpan, with a piece of butter about tho size of a walnut, a cupful of cream or new milk, half a cupful of the stock in which they were simmered, and a little salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir this over the fire until quite hot, when it may be placed in the middle of a dish of cutlets. Tunc, two hours. Probable cost of chestnuts, 3d. or 4d. per pint. Sufficient for four or five persons.
Chestnuts, Boasted for Dessert.— Cut a little piece of the outer shell off each chestnut; this is to prevent them bursting when hot. Boil them for about ten minutes; do not allow them to cool, but put them into a tin in the oven, or into a Dutch oven before the fire, and let them remain until they are quite soft. Fold them in a napkin, and servo quite hot. Salt should be eaten with thom. Time to bake, about ten minutes. Probable cost of chestnuts, 3d. or 4d. per pint. Sufficient, one pint for foui or five persons.
Chestnuts, Stewed (to be served as a vegetable).—Remove tho outer rind from sound chestnuts, then fry them in a little butter, when the inner skin may easily be freed from them. Put them into a saucepan with some good stock, and boil them until they are tender but unbroken. Tho chestnuts should be removed from tho gravy as soon as thoy arc cooked, and served in a tureen, with a little white sauce poured over them. Time to boil the chestnuts, ono hour and a half. Probable cost, 3d. or 4d. per pint. Sufficient, one quart for a turcenful.
Source: Cassel's Dictionary of Cookery 1883