Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How We Made Acorn Flour (A Lesson in Bitterness)

We gather the acorns from our oak tree.

A Bowl of Acorns

Then, we carefully crack the shells and remove the nutmeat (I use a little hammer and a pick).

Cracking Acorns (with a Hammer!)

Shelling Acorns

We shell about 2 cups worth of nuts because this is our first experiment.   

Acorn Nutmeat
Then, it's time for the long process of removing the tannins.  I learn that tannins can harm you; they inflict stomach distress and kidney problems if you consume large amounts of this bitter substance.  Removing the bitter tannins requires time and a steady flush of fresh water--either cold (like in a stream over a week-long period as the Native Americans did) or boiling hot (the quicker way).

Removing Acorn Tannins by Boiling Method
When boiling, the water turns a deep brownish-black.  Every 20 minutes, I change the water.  After several hours, the water boils clear, and that tells me the tannins are gone.  To be sure, I'm told to taste a nut.  If it tastes like a sweet pasta--bland and not bitter--I've successfully leached the tannins.  Since my acorns are from a Red Oak, they taste supremely bitter (as opposed to a White Oak), so removing these tannins takes nearly 4 hours.  If I had finely chopped the nuts, I could leach them faster.

The verb leach, by the way, means to drain away and remove.  Here I am, leaching bitterness out of acorns, and the spiritual parallel rises up as surely as the sweet smell of acorn nutmeat.   Those nuts submit to the process of cleansing, of uncomfortably stressful temperatures, over a long period of time.  No wonder life seems hard sometimes.

Perhaps I'm being leached.

Finally, I take the leached nuts and grind them in a food processor.  I want a course grind for a hearty, nutty bread.

Grinding the Acorn Nuts
I add a few cups to a regular bread recipe (flour, yeast, honey or sugar, oil, egg).  I knead the dough, let it rise for one hour, and bake it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  I've heard you want to use equal parts acorn flour and another flour or even cornmeal. 

Acorn Flour for Bread

Acorn Bread Loaf

The bread tastes absolutely delicious.  It's a warm, nutty, rich bread that the girls spread with sweet cream butter for breakfast.  I'm not an expert in acorns, but the research claims that as long as you leach out the tannins, your acorns can provide muffins, breads, pancakes, cakes, and a whole variety of baked goods. 

But you need that fresh water, boiled for a long time. 

Lord, leach me.  Remove every bitter thing in my heart. 

Journal:  Can you imagine the work that went into making food in centuries past?


TC said...

So awesome! I've always wondered about how you make acorn flour!

Amber Star said...

I just told my husband we could start a cottage industry making acorn flour. We have 6 oak trees; three red oak and two live oak. So, there would be a steady stream of acorns. :) We've wished they would go away every year for the past 30 or so years, but we are rewarded every year with a mighty harvest.

Anonymous said...

But what will the squirrels eat?

K-Sue said...

I have often thought how easy it is to get food in these days. So much of the backbreaking work is done for us.

Tereza Crump aka MyTreasuredCreations said...

came over from mckmama blog... I too collected some acorns to eat... check out my post about it... thanks for the recipe and how to. I will definitely use it. :)


Mike and Katie said...

Awesome! My neighbor roasted her acorns after leaching the tannins and she thought they ended up too dry. But processing them while they were still wet would cut down on the work a little and you could just freeze portions to use later. We will definitely do this another year. Especially as the girl get older and can help with the nut cracking and collecting. I wonder how it would taste in a banana bread type recipe.

PepeB said...

Thanks for the detailed description (I'd like to do muffins now) – and the hint that there ist a hidden spiritual gift in leaching ...

the Provident Woman said...

That looks amazing. It better be after all of the work you went through. I've never heard of doing that with acorns. Cool!

Melissa said...

You are awesome H! I know the girls loved doing this! I bet it made your home smell so nice. miss ya,

The mom~ster said...

what a great illustration ... thanks for sharing