Nov 11, 2020 at 8:35 pm #3683543Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
It has been a crazy year in so many ways, but 2020 will also go down as a great year for acorns. At least, it was a great year for the trees around our cabin above Sonora. There were tons of acorns, and they were huge.
(A big year like this is called a “mast year.” The collective term for fruits and nuts is mast…so a big year is a mast year.)
And with very little else to occupy us during the COVID year, I decided it was time to collect the acorns and see what we could do with them. And I got quite a few nuts, just off our small property there. About six gallons of acorns.
As you can see, they were nice and fat.
So I watched a few ballgames and shelled acorns. At least, I shelled some of them.
And then the experiments began. Like olives, acorns on their own are stunningly bitter and tannic. You can’t eat them, so you have treat them in some way to get rid of all that bitterness.
We tried leaching them whole for days (NOT successful.) and then grinding them up in a food processor and leaching them cold for days (also NOT successful.) We finally tried leaching the chopped up acorn meal in very hot (almost boiling water) and changing the water every ten minutes or so for about an hour and a half…and that worked!
Interestingly enough, as they boiled, they began to smell like porcini mushrooms. How cool is that?!?
So then we dried the acorns in the oven, so they looked like this:
And that’s what we’ve been adding to various recipes for the last few days. I added some to my granola in the morning…eh. And M added some to her homemade bread, which was pretty good. But then M cooked up a risotto with porcinis and these acorns, and added a little ham, and it was heaven!
We have a lot of these, and that bucket is still full, so lots more to come. But in the meantime we are having great fun experimenting with free food.Nov 12, 2020 at 6:36 am #3683587Dan YBPL Member
Thank you Paul for sharing your experiments.
I know of a very large Burr Oak close to home that offers some very large acorns. I’ll gather some today and do some experimenting, maybe roast some and see how they taste. Last year I gathered some Chinese Chestnuts, roasted them and they were really tasty.Nov 12, 2020 at 7:40 am #3683594Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
Directions for leaching the tannins out of acorns (Quercus sp.):
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the acorns, shell and all, into the already boiling water. This is important as putting the acorns in colder water and then bringing the pot to boil can lock in the undesirable tannins. Boil for a couple minutes and strain the water off. The purpose of this first boiling is to loosen the shells in preparation for shelling.
Let your acorns cool off until you can comfortably hold them in your hands. We take the broad flat end of a very small log and hit them on a cutting board to crack open the shell. We peel the remaining shell by hand and place the kernels aside. This is the most work intensive step and can take a while if you have a good amount of nuts. Children love this activity and will go at it for a surprisingly long time. Once you have your acorns shelled you can keep them whole or chop them up coarsely. Some folks run them through a hand cranked grinder at this point. I prefer to keep them whole as they seem to lose less of their good oils to the leach water and drain more easily if they are not so mealy.
Now bring two large pots to a boil. Place your shelled acorns into your first pot of just boiled water and turn down the back pot as you will not need it for a couple of minutes. Boil your acorns until the water turns dark – probably 5 minutes or so. Strain in a large colander and use the second pot of reserved boiling water to pour over the acorns for a second round of boiling. Repeat until the acorns are less astringent; you may need to follow this leaching process two to four times depending on the species of acorn.
What to do with the leached acorns? You can chop them to a coarse meal and add them to a dish immediately or save them in the fridge for a couple days. To store them longer you can freeze them, dry them in a dehydrator or in the oven, set on low with the door ajar. Many people prefer roasted acorns as it brings out their rich sweetness. To roast them place the dry acorn meal on a metal cookie sheet in the oven at 175 degrees, and stir them often until they are brown and your kitchen smells like yummy forest goodness. Store the fully dehydrated meal in a closed jar until ready to use.
I add my acorn meal to chili, soups, pancakes, cookies, oatmeal, and breads. I generally add acorn meal in one-fourth proportion to the flour in breads as it will not rise on its own. Many North American tribes combined acorn meal with equal parts corn meal for their corn bread. A surefire way to please even the most finicky of eaters is to replace nuts with acorns in any zucchini bread recipe.Nov 12, 2020 at 8:46 am #3683598Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Yep–although ours took 6-8 repetitions to get leached effectively.
And we are looking forward to using our in turkey stuffing, as well!Nov 12, 2020 at 9:28 am #3683608Jon FongBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
Mast years are really interesting. One of the theories is that oaks will go through a mast period in order to increase the chances of reproduction. One of Peggy’s ascociates at UCLA studies Oak Trees. We have two next two our house and we noticed that the Jays have come back pretty strong after the massive die due to West Nile
Acorn crops tend to be highly variable, with a huge amount of acorns some years, and very few in other years. Studies show that during bumper crop years, which occur on average two out of ten years, there can be more than 250,000 acorns per acre. That translates into more than five acorns per square foot. During poor years, there may be only 20,000 to 65,000 acorns per acre, or an average of one acorn per square foot. What causes this occasional massive amount of acorn production? A common theory has to do with the critters that eat acorns. Since acorns are the key to perpetuating oaks, and acorns are so tasty to critters, if oaks produced steady acorn crops every year the populations of animals that eat them would stay steady as well. Fewer acorns would survive to become seedlings. The theory is that oaks occasionally produce huge amounts of acorns in order to overwhelm the animals that eat them, increasing the chances that some will survive.Nov 12, 2020 at 1:39 pm #3683663Andy StowBPL Member
@andysLocale: Midwest USA
I did this with my sons probably a decade ago. We made cookies with them that turned out pretty okay.Nov 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm #3683681Tom KBPL Member
Beyond a decent amount of monounsaturated fat, manganese, folate, and vitamin B6, they aren’t nutrient dense, and I do wonder how much of the vitamins and minerals would be available after 4 or more rounds of boiling. Still, they taste good and have that indescribably satisfying quality of things gathered from non agricultural sources. That alone is reason enough for me.
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