Saturday, November 7, 2009

Living Simply - Acorns

I'm sure you've heard the phrase Live simply so that others can simply live. Much to be said for that, I think. You might take a second and figure out what that phrase means to you. Living simply can mean taking advantage of the bounty of food that the Universe has put in your front yard.

Maybe your mother told you that acorns were poisonous, but that's because she didn't know that early American settlers and Native Americans often got half their protein from acorns. We just forgot that they were a bountiful, free, easy food. I don't know why.

I am blessed to be living with ten oak trees on this property. Next door is a bit under two acres of mostly oaks. This fall I've been collecting acorns and experimenting with how they are best prepared to eat. People at work think I'm a bit off but have been bringing me bags of acorns from their oaks as well.

One thing I've learned is that you have to start with good acorns. There is nothing I can do to those little acorns from Red Oaks with the beautiful, pumpkin-colored meats, to make them eatable. They are just gonna be nasty. The later, larger acorns from White Oaks have pale yellow or white meats and are much better when it comes to eating.

Acorns are full of tannins, which need to be removed before they are going to be tasty. There are a couple of ways to do this. The way I've found most effective is the boiling water technique.

Have two pots with enough water to cover the nut meats (oh, yeah, you have to shell them and discard any meats the worms have beat you to.) When the first pot of water is at a full boil, drop in the acorn meats and turn off the heat. Let it cool to the point that you can put your hands in there without burning them.

You'll notice that the water turns brown. The harder shelled acorns yield a light brown water and the softer shelled acorns yield a very dark brown water. Pour off some of this first broth into a little jar that you'll keep in the frig. When you get a scratch or an insect bite, put some of this natural astringent on it and it will fix you right up. I understand that you can also use it to tan your animal hides, but I don't want to think about that.

Ok, back to the acorn meat. Get the second pot of water boiling before you strain the first pot. They'll still be hot when you plop them into the second pot. Taste one of the meats. If the bitterness is sufficiently gone, you don't even have to give them a second boil. Each type and every tree of each type produces a different level of bitterness. Also, what you consider terribly bitter, I might rather like. It seems we all have different taste buds. Go figure. Anyway, you just keep doing this until the meats are un-bitter enough for you.

Now you've got a bunch of chunks of un-bitter acorn meats. Let them drain onto a towel a while then put them on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until they are crunchy. The time differs of course, and will usually take 1 to 2 hours.

Now you can put the chunks in the frig to use as nuts in cooking or you can grind them into flour to use in baking. I cook them in my oatmeal at lunch. They give the oatmeal a nutty tea flavor. And they give me a protein boost mid day. I also use the acorn flour in bread, substituting it for a quarter to a third of the wheat flour.

Ok, so why would I do all this when I could just go to MacDonalds? Acorns are healthy, they are plentiful, they are free and I enjoy hunting, collecting, shelling and processing them. I really enjoy finding new ways to use them. So my question is why don't more people do this?

3 comments:

  1. Thanks Fay!! I was wondering how to do this step by step. You read my mind!

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