Castagne del Prete (Priest’s Chestnuts) are a typical product of the Irpinia area, mainly consumed during the Christmas period.
More specifically, these are the Montella PGI Chestnuts which have undergone special processing.
This fruit, excellence of the Campania region, has a very ancient origin and, as in the past, is still made following traditional methods.
The top quality of the fruit is well preserved by this type of processing, which does not involve the use of chemical agents.
Let’s check out the main phases:
- After harvesting and selection, we proceed with the drying process, which lasts more than 10 days inside the so-called “gratali”, i.e. rooms heated by the fire (lit with the wood of freshly pruned chestnut trees).
It is at this stage that the Priest’s Chestnuts take on their typical smoky aroma.
- The drying is followed by the toasting, which takes place in the oven at very high temperatures, to intensify the flavour of the dried chestnuts.
- These two fundamental stages produce a very dry fruit; that’s why the processing ends with an extremely important stage, the bath.
For 7 days the chestnuts are immersed in water, where they are rehydrated and softened.
The Priest’s Chestnuts can be eaten au naturel or used in many recipes: first courses, chestnut gnocchi, meat-based second courses, soups of legumes and cereals, desserts.
The name Castagne Del Prete can be traced back to the times when the Irpinian monks took care of their production.
Legend has it that a priest, or monk, received a large quantity of chestnuts as a gift and loaded them onto his mule to take them home.
The animal, burdened by this excessive weight, stumbled into a river and poured all its load into the water.
All the villagers began to mock the priest who, tenaciously, did not give in and thought well to put the chestnuts in the oven to dry them.
Although imaginary, this legend highlights some modus operandi still put into practice today by the producers.