Many say that autumn is marked in Portugal by the smell of chestnuts roasting. On the streets of Portugal, in autumn, you can buy roasted chestnuts by the dozen from street vendors. In Portugal, either cast iron or metal caldron-type pots are used with holes in the bottom to roast chestnuts over hot coals.
Here is an easy at-home recipe to use to create this delicious dish of Castanhas Assadas (Roasted Chestnuts):
Whole Fresh Chestnuts in the shell
Make a slice in the top of each chestnut with a sharp knife (this is to keep them from exploding) and rinse well with cold water.
Put them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
When you pull out of the oven cover with a damp tea towel – this keeps the chestnuts moist and easier to remove from the shell.
Enjoy with friends and family!
Dia de São Martinho – which is St. Martin’s Day and is celebrated in Portugal on November 11th.
Today, Dia de São Martinho is a celebration of the harvest and has become a day to celebrate the maturation of the year’s wine production and tap and taste the “new” wines as well as roast newly harvested chestnuts (castanhas). Families and communities will gather and recently harvested chestnuts are roasted, pigs are roasted to share, and the first wines of the season are opened and tasted. This celebration festival is known as a magusto.
St. Martin’s Day is a religious holiday honoring Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman soldier who is known for a certain miracle…Riding on horseback in a snowstorm, Martin came upon a nearly naked beggar. Not having money or food, Martin took his sword, cut his cloak in half and gave the cloth to the beggar. Legend has it that clouds dispersed, the sun came out, and Jesus said to the angels, “here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.”
As we say in Portugal: É dia de São martinho. Comem-se castanhas; prova-se o vinho! (“It is St. Martin’s Day. We’ll eat chestnuts; we’ll taste the wine.”)
Feliz dia de São Martinho – Happy St. Martin’s Day!