Chestnut season has come here in Japan! You can see a bunch of fresh chestnuts in stores during September and October, with lots of dishes and sweets with chestnuts.
Here are a type of Wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets), called Kurikinton ,made from chestnuts.
Many people look forward to having them in the autumn.
What’s Kurikinton ?
Kurikinton has simple and natural flavor with mashed chestnuts(Kuri, 栗) and sugar. The texture is smooth and sometimes crunchy with chestnut pieces. You can enjoy the full of chestnut flavor.
It is also called Kuri chakin (栗茶巾) or Kuri chakin shibori (栗茶巾絞り) in Kyoto.These names come from the way of making it. Chakin(茶巾) literally means a tea cloth that is a special cloth for Chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) to wipe off water etc from utensils. Shibori(絞り) means twisting. The sweets are formed by twisting the chestnut paste in a cloth.
Chakin shibori (茶巾絞り) , a way of making a shape with a cloth
The History of Kurikinton
The birthplace of Kurikinton is said to be Nakatsugawa, Gifu, where is a small mountain town in central Japan. This place produces a lot of chestnuts, and people have them since the Jomon Period, more than 10,000 years ago.
Kurikinton was created at the Edo Period(1603-1868) ,and spread right across Japan. What happened in a mountain place during the Edo Period?
Nakatsugawa, Gifu (岐阜県中津川市)
Kurikinton with Chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony)
Nakatsugawa was developed as a post town or “juku” on the Nakasendo trail that connects Tokyo and Kyoto on the mountain route during the Edo Period. As the town was in the middle between Tokyo and Kyoto, an original culture developled reflecting the influence of both Tokyo and Kyoto cultures. Many cultured people lived there, and practiced the Chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony)
In the Japanese tea ceremony, some sweets are taken before having Matcha to bring out the taste of tea, so they needed a steady supply of sweets. Many sweets made from chestnuts were made by confectioners in Nakatsugawa, and then Kurikinton was developed.
Kurikinton is still popular as autumn sweets for the Japanese tea ceremony.
Nakatsugawa is famous for the birthplace of Kurikinton, and there are more than 10 shops selling Kurikinton even in such a small town. Many people visit and search for there to get their favorite Kurikinton.
If you can't visit there, you can make it at home. Let's try to make these traditional sweets! Get chestnuts and let's start.
This recipe is for Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata). You should be able to make it with other types of chestnuts (European or Chinese chestnut) although texture and the sweetness are different.
Japanese chestnut (日本栗, Castanea crenata)
500g / 17oz of chestnuts
80g/ 3oz or cup of sugar
pinch of salt
1 Place the chestnuts in a deep pan with cold water. Bring it to boil ,and then heat on low for 30-40 minutes.
2 Cut the chestnuts in half with a kitchen knife, squeeze out the pulp with a spoon.
3 Mash the pulp or put it into a blender. How much you mash depends on your taste. You can leave some small pieces if you’d like to have some crunchy texture in a smooth paste.
4 Put the mashed chestnuts ,sugar and salt in a pan, heat on low stirring continuously with a spatula to dissolve sugar and salt, and remove some water. Try not to burn the mixture. You can add some water if it's difficult to stir.
5 Transfer it to a plate. Make a piece of 30g(1oz) each. Put the lump on a wet cooking cloth or cling wrap, twist the cloth to make a ball. ( It's Chakin shibori. See the photo above ).
It's nice to have it with Matcha, while thinking about the history with tea ceremony.
Coffee and black tea are also a good match.
Enjoy the autumn flavor!!
Grown without use of pesticides / synthetic fertilizers. Shaded 3-4 weeks before harvest.
Tea leaves are cultivated in the mountain climate of Shirakawa, Gifu. This tea has a unique, fresh aroma balanced by a rich flavor that expands on your tongue.
Collection of essays reflecting Chanoyu (Japanese Tea Ceremony). The essay was made into a film, with one of the renowned Japanese actress Kiki Kirin, in her last film. The film trailer is on the page.
You can use making a shape of Kurikinton (Chakin Shibori) as well as using for practice of Japanese tea ceremony.