The Art of Darkness

Be Like the Squirrel, Girl

November 10th, 2008 by Cobwebs

I grew up in Southern California, and one of the bits of history we learned in school was that the local Indians ate acorns as a staple food, leaching the tannins out by pouring boiling water over the acorn meal. I filed that information away in whatever portion of my brain allows me to recall a Dr. Pepper jingle from 1973 but not remember my sister’s birthday and didn’t think about it again for about 25 years.

And then a couple of weeks ago I ran across this post which describes how to make acorn flour, and I thought:

  1. I’ve always sort of wanted to try that.
  2. I’m an adult now. I can totally stink up the kitchen with acorns if I want.
  3. I live in Northern Virginia. If there’s one thing we’ve got plenty of right now, it’s acorns.

So despite Shadow Jack’s smirking reminder that the only time anybody ate acorns was because there wasn’t anything else to eat,* I gave it a try.

A few of my notes:

  • I tried using a dehydrator to dry out the acorns as the blogger suggested. This made the acorns easier to open, but also resulted in hard, brown nutmeats. This may be because I used acorns from a different species of oak, or I may have dried them too long. Anyway, I wasn’t happy with the results and decided to use only fresh acorns in order to maximize my chances of getting usable flour.
  • I really didn’t find fresh acorns that hard to open; the shells are very thin. The nutmeats do cling to the shell quite a bit more when fresh, but they’re not difficult to pry out and it doesn’t matter if they’re in one piece because you’re going to grind them anyway.
  • I frequently suggest doing mindless tasks in front of the TV; I don’t recommend opening acorns in the house. If you happen to get a rotten one, it will explode in a cloud of black dust when you try to crack it. Shell your acorns outside, or prepare for some serious vacuuming. Also a shower.
  • The original post doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail regarding their method for leaching out the tannins. After making the initial acorn slurry, I poured it into a clean dishcloth set over a strainer, squeezed it out thoroughly, then just poured several cups of hot water over the acorn mush in the strainer, periodically squeezing it out again. It’s fairly easy to tell when the tannins are reduced even without tasting; the rinse water goes from muddy brown to almost clear.
  • I had trouble grinding the meal very finely in the food processor. Shadow Jack** suggested using a small “bullet” blender, which worked significantly better; the four blades provided a much finer grind.

And the taste? Is pretty darn good. It’s got a distinctly nutty flavor, but a different nutty flavor than anything I was accustomed to. I made pancakes and replaced half of the flour with my acorn meal, and they were delicious. (The batter seemed a bit thin; I suspect that the lack of gluten in the acorns had something to do with it. Next time I’ll reduce the liquid a bit.)

The whole process is pretty time-consuming, and I can’t see myself ever doing this on a large scale, but it wasn’t at all difficult and it was fun to come over all Pioneer Woman. Something made out of this flour would definitely be a showpiece at a dinner party.

If you try this yourself, let me know your results in the comments!

*To his credit, Shadow Jack has treated the announcement of every harebrained scheme that’s ever popped into my head with nothing more than an absent nod. So smirking or not, he’s a keeper.

**Who, also to his credit, will eventually come around and actually help with my harebrained schemes if the situation warrants.

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