Delicious glazed chestnuts that originated in medieval Europe.
By J.M. Towers
Marron glacé, candied chestnuts that evoke the magic of forests and exquisite taste, are a favorite holiday sweet in countries like France, Italy, and Spain.
With a unique texture, this treat will transport you to childhood times. The morsels are typically wrapped individually in thick protective paper to maintain their freshness and appearance. Take a delightful marron place with some fine port or muscat and you’ll enjoy an intense and unforgettable experience.
Marron Glace originated in northern Italy and southern France, where chestnut trees are plentiful. Crusaders returning to Europe from the Middle East brought sugar, which was not yet known on the Old Continent and used it as a cooking ingredient in Italy and France.
Thanks to old cookbooks that have been preserved, we know that in the early 15th century, a sweet made with candied chestnuts was already produced in the Italian Piedmont. However, it was not until well into the 16th century that the first marron glacé— as we know it today—appeared. The great chef François Pierre La Varenne made it for King Louis XVI, and the recipe was recorded in his famous cookbook Le parfait confiturier (The Perfect Confectioner).
In 1882, a businessman named Clement Faugier opened the first factory in Ardeche, France. The location was chosen because, for centuries, the area produced quality chestnuts that have a protected designation of origin.
Other production companies— such as Sabaton and Imbert—were founded later in the same area. At some point marron glacé gained international appeal and adorned the royal tables of Russia, France, Spain, and England.
At present, the Fugier company continues to produce marron glacé with the same standards of excellence used for more than 100 years.
We can say that the world's best marron glacé are made in France, Italy and Spain because they are the main chestnut producers and have built a lucrative industry around this wonderful nut.
Italians claim that marron glacé originated in their country, and for them the preparation of this treat is an art. The most famous version is produced, since 1949, by the firm Giuliani in Rome.
Spain also excels in marron glacé creativity, mainly in Galicia. My favorites are made by the Cuevas Company, founded in 1867 in Ourense. The brand is famous for their broad menu of products, including their three most outstanding varieties: Classic, Ginger, and Sherry.
We should always remember that for marron glacé to be termed as such, the chestnuts must remain in one piece and have the right size to be tasted in one single, delightful bite. ■
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