Acorns are one of the most abundant forage foods available in any urban environment since acorns grow on Oak trees and Oak trees are very popular with homeowners. Also, there are many different species of Oak tree and they all produce a different type of acorn and, while they are all editable, it should be noted that some species are considered to be more palatable than others.
However, be aware that although avid deer hunters will regale you with tales a deer’s propensity for White Oak acorns because they are sweet whereas, Red Oak Acorns are bitter, the concept of a “sweet” acorn is really just an old wives tale since there is no such thing as a sweet, naturally occurring, acorn!
In fact, all acorns are bitter and thus, they must be leeched prior to consumption but, if they are prepared correctly, they produce a highly delectable forage food source that can be prepared in several different ways and even be substituted for wheat flour. Furthermore, acorns contain starches which the human body converts to carbohydrates for use as a quick fuel source as well as some essential oils.
In addition, although acorns can be eaten fresh from the tree, most species are bitter due to Tannin contained in the nut and thus, the preferred method of preparing acorns is to shell them and dry them and then leech the tannin out of them by soaking the pieces in water. But, it should be noted that when shelling fresh acorns, the nuts are far more easily removed from their shells if the nuts are heated first and this can be accomplished by either “flash roasting” them or by immersing them a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds but, it is important to crack the shells and remove the meat while the nut is still warm.
To crack the shells, lay the nuts out in rows after heating and strike them with a wooden mallet but do not smash them. Then, once the meat has been separated from the shell, the brown layer that covers it must also be removed because it is very high in Tannin (a chemical that makes food taste bitter). To accomplish this, if the skin is loose, then simply rub the pieces between your thumb and index finger to remove the skin but, if it’s not loose, then immerse the shelled nuts in water for five to ten seconds, stir them vigorously, and then drain them which will cause the skin to become loose. Then, once the nuts have dried, the skin can be easily rubbed off.
Next, acorns should be leeched to remove the Tannin before they can be eaten. In fact, inadequately leeching acorns inevitably leads to bitter product and yet, it is the most common mistake when preparing acorns. Furthermore, it should be noted that there are two different methods of leeching acorns; one of which uses hot water and the other of which uses cold water. In additon, it should also be noted that the two methods produce two, entirely different, food products.
For instance, hot-leeching is used mainly for larger pieces such as quarters and halves and involves vigorously boiling the acorn pieces in a pot of water for 30 to 60 minutes, then changing the water and boiling them again, and then repeating the process up to fifteen times until the acorn pieces are no longer bitter to taste (when they are done, they will be a dark, chocolate, brown). Cold-leeching on the other hand involves soaking the acorns in cold water with numerous water changes which, although it takes longer, produces a more nutritious product because the meat retains more of its starches, vitamins, and minerals.
To complete this step, first dry the shelled and cleaned acorns and then pulverize them into a powder using a mortar and pestle. Then, to complete this step, the meat needs to be dried and cleaned and then pulverized into a powder using a mortar and pestle or flour grinder which produces acorn flour.
Last, although there are many different ways to consume Acorns, one of the most practical methods it to add hot-leeched, acorn pieces to meat and/or vegetables in either a stew or a stir-fry. Also, the hot-leeched pieces can be dried and ground into a meal but, because hot leeched acorn meal will not stick to itself, it must be mixed with wheat flour for baking. On the other hand, cold-leeched acorn flour will stick to itself and thus, it can be used by itself for baking.
In fact, two of the most popular ways to prepare cold-leeched acorn meal is to make a sort of flat bread by spreading a thin layer of acorn meal dough in a pan and then baking first one side and then the other until the center is done or, you can thin the dough down with water to form a paste then spread very thin sheets in a heated pan and then cook it until hard to create acorn-meal chips. Of course, baker’s yeast could also be added to the flour to cause the dough to rise, thus resulting in a light, fluffy, bread or muffin.
So, the next time you see your neighbor raking up huge piles of seemingly useless acorns, try asking them if you might remove them for them and, with just a little bit of work, you can be enjoying numerous new baked goods made from one of Nature’s most bountiful nuts!