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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Acorn Flour

Have you ever seen the mess that the squirrels leave and wondered if people could eat acorns too?

Well acorns have been used as food for thousands of years. However, like a lot of foods, they require a bit of processing before you can really enjoy them. Acorns are most often used to produce a type of flour, which can then be used to make breads, cakes, and pastries.

The first thing that you should be aware of if you are going out to harvest acorns is to harvest acorns from white oaks, and not from red oaks. White oaks have rounded leaves, while red oaks have points on their leaves. The reason you want acorns from white oaks is because they have much much less tannin in them and will be easier to process.

What is tannin? Tannin is a substance that makes your mouth pucker and is extremely bitter. If you eat large amounts of it, it can cause an upset stomach. Think of when you let your tea sit too long and it becomes puckering, that is tannin.

So we have already claimed that white oak has less tannin, but most white oak acorns still have enough tannin to make them unpleasent to eat. So what can you do. Well, you can leach the tannin out.

First you want to get a large supply of white oak acorns. Most people do not use acorns, and some find them annoying and messy, so all you usually have to do is ask if you can pick up some acorns. You want fresh acorns, although not green ones. You also want to be on the look out for holes. There is a grub that loves to eat acorns, and acorns with holes in them are likely to be completely eaten inside.

Then you want to take your supply of acorns and place them in an low temperature oven for a few minutes to an hour. You don't want to actually cook the acorns, what you are doing is allowing them to dry out a little bit to make them easier to handle. If you want you can leave them in a dry place for a week or so and you should get the same effect.

Next you want to get at the meat of the acorn. Alot of sites recommend cutting the acorns open. This is an effective way of getting at the meat because the shells are not very thick. However, being round, the acorns tend to roll one way or the other and you can cut yourself. So I recommend a hammer and lightly tapping the acorns. It won't take a lot of force to break the acorn, and if you cannot get the meat out, you can cut with a flat surface to help.

The acorns of white oak should be white, with a brown skin that easily comes off or even may stay in the shell. There is a good chance that you will find some acorns with grubs, you can easily throw these away. The grubs trails are dark and are easily visible against the white acorn.

Now that you have your white acorns ready, it is time to leach out the tannin. You can chop the acorns into small pieces or use a food processor to pulverize them into a rough flour. The reason is that the more surface area there is, the more quickly the tannin will be removed.

There are two main ways to remove the tannin, one is be boiling, the other is by drip leaching.

If you choose boiling, you set two pots of water on the stove and bring both to a boil, add the acorns to pot one and when the water turns brown, remove the acorns and switch them to the second pot. Empty the water from the first pot, refill and bring to a boil again. Keep repeating this process until you have clear water at which point all the tannins have been removed. Do not rinse with cold water or put the acorns in cold water and then bring to a boil, the cold will bind the tannins to the acorns making it very difficult or impossible to remove them.

Drip leaching is a bit less involved. Take a container and make a few holes in the bottom. Place the acorn pieces in the container. Cover with water, and slowly turn on a faucet to just keep the acorn pieces covered. Continue until the water running out runs clear, usually a couple hours, but it could be overnight.

At the end of either of these processes, place the pieces on in a pan, and return to the oven on low for an hour or so. This will dry out the pieces enough to make a good fine flour out of them. I find that acorn flour tastes like a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds with a little bit of sweetness. The flour can be used in place of part of the flour used in baking breads, muffins, cakes, etc.

A recipe from an article by Barbara Sykes in "The Forager" follows

Acorn Bread

Mix 1 cup of ground acorn meal with 3 teaspoons baking powder, a tsp of salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar or honey, and a cup of flour. Sepearetly to a beaten egg and a cup of milk add 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir this gently into the dry mix then pour into a well greased pan. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.

For more on acorns and their use as food check out



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