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As for the chestnuts, they are cut horizontally in a circle, then boiled briefly to slightly loosen their two layers of skin. Once peeled, they are cooked in boiling water before being added to the pears. Preserved chestnuts in syrup can also be used, whether home-made or store-bought.
- Peel and cook the chestnuts as described above. Solange cautions that the chestnuts need to be peeled while still hot as their skin starts to stick again when they cool down.
- Heat water in a medium-size wide and shallow pot (to facilitate evaporation) and add the sugar
- Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape the tiny grains into the syrup, then add the two halves of the vanilla bean to the pan
- While the syrup is boiling, peel and core the pears and cut them in quarters
- Plunge them delicately into the boiling syrup and let them simmer. Refrain from handling them as they cook. To avoid breaking them, do not flip them over
- When the pears are translucent, gently add the chestnuts with some of their cooking water and let the syrup thicken again
- Pour into jars when done. The confit will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. To extend its shelf life, it is imperative to sterilize the jars, a precaution that Solange takes systematically. She places all her jars in a big pot, covers them with cold water, then bring the water to a boil and lets the whole thing boil at 176°F/89°C for 15 minutes. None of her jars has ever spoiled.
- When adding the pears to the syrup, make sure they are completely immersed and let them simmer
- When preparing the chestnuts for peeling, cut through both skins all around. It is a bit hard to do but but when cut that way, both skins loosen simultaneously in boiling water.
- Using a chestnut knife makes cutting the chestnuts in a circle a bit easier but a regular paring knife can be used as well
- It doesn’t matter if the cut penetrates the flesh of the chestnut
- After peeling, the chestnuts need to be cooked before they can be added to the pears
- Add some of the chestnut cooking water to the syrup in the pear pan, so that it can thicken again without caramelizing
- It doesn’t matter if the chestnuts crumble when added to the pears. In fact if using preserved chestnuts you probably want to break them a bit at this point.