|Place of origin||Northern Italy/Southern France|
|Region or state||Piedmont/Rhône-Alpes|
|Main ingredient(s)||Chestnuts, sugar|
A marron glacé (plural marrons glacés) is a confection, originating in southern France and northern Italy consisting of a chestnut candied in sugar syrup and glazed. Marrons glacés are an ingredient in many desserts and are also eaten on their own.
Candied chestnuts appeared in chestnut-growing areas in northern Italy and southern France shortly after the crusaders returned to Europe with sugar. Sugar allowed that which honey could not.[clarification needed] A candied chestnut confection was probably served around the beginning of the 15th century in Piedmont, among other places. But marrons glacés as such (with the last touch of 'glazing'), may have been created only in the 16th century. Lyon and Cuneo dispute the title for the addition of the glazing, or icing, that makes the real Marron glacé.
The earliest known record of a recipe for marron glacés was written by the French at the end of 17th century in Louis XIV's Versailles court. In 1667, François Pierre La Varenne, ten years' chef de cuisine to Nicolas Chalon du Blé, Marquis of Uxelles (near Lyon and a chestnut-producing area), and foremost figure of the nouvelle cuisine movement of the time, published his best-selling book Le parfaict confiturier. In it he describes “la façon de faire marron pour tirer au sec” (“the way to make (a) chestnut (so as) to 'pull it dry'”); this may well be the first record of the recipe for marrons glacés. "Tirer au sec" means, in a confectionery context, "to remove (what's being candied) from the syrup". La Varenne's book was edited thirty times in seventy-five years.
Nevertheless that book was not mentioned (nor indeed any other) when the recipe applied to cocoa beans, was in 1694 passed on to Jean-Baptiste Labat, a French missionary in the Martinique. In that year Father Labat wrote in a letter, of a recipe for candied and iced cocoa beans which he had tasted when dining at a M. Pocquet's. Another early citation, still in French, is from 1690.
Towards the end of 19th century, Lyon was suffering from the collapse of the textile market, notably silk. In the midst of this crisis, Clément Faugier, a bridge and roadworks engineer, was looking for a way to revitalize the regional economy. In 1882 in Privas, Ardèche, he and a local confectioner set up the first factory with the technology to produce marrons glacés industrially (though many of the nearly twenty steps necessary from harvest to finished product are still performed manually). Three years later he introduced the crème de marrons de l'Ardèche, a sweetened chestnut purée made from “marrons glacés” broken during the production process, and a touch of vanilla. (later came “Marrons au Cognac” in 1924, “Purée de Marrons Nature” in 1934, “Marrons au Naturel” in 1951, and “Marpom's” in 1994.)
The same process was used by José Posada in Ourense (Spain) in 1980. He was the first businessman in Spain to build a factory to produce Spanish marrons glacés using Galician raw chestnuts, which previously were exported to France to produce the confectionary. Posada used the French and Italian formula to produce the marrons glacés. Today, there are two factories that produce marrons glacés in Spain, exporting this delicacy across the world.
Châtaigne or marron
The French have two words for chestnut: châtaigne and marron. Both are the fruit of the sweet chestnut or Castanea sativa. However, marron tends to denote a higher quality fruit that is more easily peeled. Chestnuts are covered with a pellicle, or membrane, which closely adheres to the fruit's flesh and which must be removed because of its astringency. Some nuts clearly shows two cotyledons usually separated with deep grooves going nearly all the way through the fruit; this makes them too fragile for the necessary manipulations during the cooking process. There also are other grooves on the surface, which means more embedded pellicle that must be painstakingly removed. "Marron"-quality nuts do not have the separation into two cotyledons; it appears in one piece and it shows few very shallow grooves. Marron-quality nuts for marrons glacés may be three or four times more expensive than the châtaigne because they also have a lower yield.
Marrons glacés may be eaten on their own.
In the novel La dame aux Camélias (1848) by Alexandre Dumas, fils, marrons glacés are said to be the only type of confection eaten by the principal character, the courtesan Marguerite Gautier. Her clients were expected to buy bags of them for her.
In the short story Reginald (1901) by Saki, the narrator leaves Reginald "near a seductive dish of marrons glacés" at a garden-party in the vain hope that these delicacies will distract him from wreaking social havoc.
On the 1971 King Crimson song "Ladies of the Road", from the album "Islands", vocalist Boz Burrell mentions "marron-glaced fishbones".
Marron glacés are a speciality of Bursa, Turkey, where they are called kestane șekeri 'chestnut candy'.
- Vegetarians in Paradise.
- "Taccuini Storici". Taccuinistorici.it. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Un Peu d'Histoire. Site Clément Faugier.
- Jean-Baptiste Labat (1694). "Nouveau Voyage aux Isles françaises de l'Amérique". A very detailed letter about an adaptation of the recipe, also with glaze, applied on cocoa beans.
- Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. marron glacé
- A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. M. Grieve.
- "',Le Marron glacé de Privas, le meilleur de la chataîgne',". Linternaute.com. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- "El 'rey del marron glacé' ha contribuido a que la castaña de Galicia sea un producto gastronómico de primera categoría en Europa". ElPais.com. 15 November 1983.
- "José Posada, el patriarca gallego del ‘marron glacé’". ElPais.com. January 15 2013.
- The Cambridge World History of Food – Chestnuts. Edited by Kenneth F. Kipple and Kriemhild Connee Ornelas.