The 10th Annual Chestnut and Tsipouro Festival took place in Rodavgi, Arta, Greece, organized by the Cultural Association of Rodavgi in collaboration with the local community, the Women’s Association, and the Friends of Ammos, in the village square.
Chestnuts (grilled and boiled), tiganites (pancakes), and Rodavgiotiko tsipouro were offered to all who attended. The traditional distillation cauldron for tsipouro was on display and visitors had the opportunity to see how tsipouro is made. The fragrant tsipouro is made from zampela – a local grape variety, which everyone enjoyed against the majestic backdrop of Pindus mountain range and the man-made Lake Arachthos.
Chestnut and tsipouro festivals take place in many regions of Greece. Ano Chora in the mountainous Nafpaktia region holds its festival in early October. Braziers to roast chestnuts and distillation boilers for tsipouro are set up early in the day in the village square and in the afternoon local ladies offer traditional pies and sweets such as pancakes, loukoumades, baklava, ravani, kourambiedes, and spoon sweets.
The chestnut festival in Mavrilo village on the east slopes of Mount Velouchi is held in late October. Visitors can enjoy the local chestnuts and traditional pies with a glass of tsipouro under the shade of age-old plane trees. Livadi, Thermi, near Thessaloniki also holds a chestnut festival in its main square with a centuries-old plane tree. The beautiful chestnut forest trails offer lovely views of Anthemounta valley and the horseshoe-shaped Thermaikos Gulf.
Among the many recipes with chestnuts, kastanopita (chestnut pie) is a classic in these regions, especially in the winter months.
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fine semolina
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 lb. boiled or roasted chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly, for brushing the phyllo
1 lb. package phyllo dough, thin pastry sheets
For the syrup:
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 shot almond liqueur
In a large saucepan, bring the milk up to a boil with the sugar over medium high heat. Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and stir in the semolina, continuing to stir until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract and the beaten eggs, stirring constantly. Stir in the cold butter and the chestnuts. Set aside and allow the cream to cool.
Brush a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a little of the melted butter, and place the first sheet of phyllo in the pan, brush with butter, and continue with half the sheets of phyllo in the package. Pour the cream on top of the buttered phyllo sheets and then top with the remaining sheets of phyllo, brushing each layer with butter.
Score the kastanopita with a sharp knife into the individual pieces and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the baked kastanopita from the oven and allow to cool slightly while preparing the syrup.
For the syrup, stir together the water, sugar, lemon juice, and almond liqueur in a large deep pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to medium heat and simmer the syrup for 5-7 minutes. Pour the warm syrup over the slightly cooled kastanopita and allow it to absorb for 10-15 minutes at least before serving. Store any leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator.