As someone who follows a gluten-free diet for health reasons, I’m always excited to find new options to incorporate into my diet. Imagine my joy when I discovered two huge oak trees on my property! My fervent glee came from the fact that oaks make acorns, which are delicious. You can even turn these gems into acorn flour!
People have been making acorn flour for centuries, and while it takes some work, the results are well worth it. Acorns are nutritious, delicious, and worth nothing if you have oak trees! Want to learn more?
- 1 What is acorn flour? is that the thing?
- 2 Which Acorns to Use
- 3 How to prepare your own acorns
- 4 How to Cook or Bake With Your Acorn Flour
- 5 Storage
- 6 Potential Allergy Awareness
What is acorn flour? is that the thing?
Yes. Yes this is it. In fact, acorn flour has been a staple among native peoples for thousands of years. It has only fallen out of popularity in the last few centuries or so that wheat, rye and other common grains have taken over the market. After all, making acorn flour takes a lot of time and energy, and most people don’t have the time to dedicate to making it.
It’s a lot easier to shell out a few dollars at the grocery store for all-purpose flour than to go through this laborious process, isn’t it?
Luckily for us Luddite homesteader types, making dough out of wild plants is not only fun, it’s extremely satisfying. In fact, when you realize how nutritious they can be, you’ll be even more excited to include them in your diet.
Acorn flour is exactly what it sounds like: ground dried acorns. Preparing this dough so that it is actually edible, however, takes a bit of effort. That’s because you can’t just grind them and eat them – you have to take out the tannins before eating them.
We are getting ahead of ourselves though. Let’s touch first on what types of acorns to collect before charging in Litchville.
Which Acorns to Use
All acorns are edible, but it takes effort to make them tastier—some more than others.
Some are quite sweet while others are distinctly bitter, but all require leaching to bring out their bitter tannins. These tannins are considered “antinutrients,” in that they prevent the body from being able to absorb nutrients from other foods. They can also damage the liver or kidneys in large amounts.
I have eastern white oak (quercus alba) on my property, and they are absolute treasures. In contrast, the interior live oak (Q. Vislizeny) The acorns I worked with in California needed more elbow grease, but they were worth it nonetheless. red Oak (Q. Agriculture) Acorns have a very high amount of tannins, so avoid them unless you are prepared to do a lot of leaching.
Harvesting fallen acorns is easiest. Look for ones that are brown and shiny, either with or without a hat. You will remove these caps later anyway, as they are inedible.
Green acorns are unripe and have high tannin levels, so don’t bother with them. As you are forging, discard any acorns that have small holes. That’s because those holes are made by insects, and you probably don’t want to add them to your flour mixture.
Bigger acorns give you more bang for your buck, so take the biggest you can find. Once you have accumulated a reasonable number, you are ready to start creating them.
How to prepare your own acorns
As mentioned, there are a few steps involved in preparing acorns for the dough.
Step 1: Rinse and Float Them
Rinse the acorns thoroughly to eliminate any dirt, dead insects, etc. Then transfer them to a large pot and cover them completely with water. There should be about 4 inches of water above them.
Some acorns will float, while the rest will sink to the bottom. Remove the floaters and throw them into the woods for squirrels and other herbivores to enjoy. These are old and will be tasteless or unpleasant to eat.
Step 2: Dry Them
One of the easiest ways to dry peeled acorns is to put them in a dehydrator. Set them on the lowest setting you have and let them dry for a full 24 hours. Alternatively, you can put them in your oven on the lowest setting for 12-16 hours.
Let these cool completely before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Crack Your Nuts
Use a nutcracker or a pair of strong pliers to crack the acorn shells. If the acorns are sufficiently dried these should be fairly easy. Just put on some music or Netflix and go crazy.
Never try to pluck a green acorn. They are tight and slippery and you will cripple yourself even if you try.
Step 4: Dig Out the Meat
This is the tricky part.
A layer of skin (known as the testa) wrapped around the inner flesh of the acorn. It is in this layer that most of those strange tannins like to stand out, and it can be difficult to remove.
For example, white oak acorns are quite smooth on the inside, and the testa can be rubbed off easily. In contrast, the flesh of red oak acorns can be as wrinkled as that of chestnut flesh. As you can imagine, it is more difficult to remove.
If you can’t get all of this skin off the flesh of the acorn, don’t worry about it. You’ll just need to leech them a few more times to get all the bitter tannins out. The acorn flour you make will also be a little darker, but it will be like using whole wheat flour instead of white.
I have found that wearing cotton gloves while doing this helps to remove the testicles more efficiently. Keep a small knife and a small square of sandpaper on hand for some of the more difficult tasks.
Additionally, I’ve found that placing these acorn meats in the freezer for about 20 minutes helps remove the testa. It tends to be a bit brittle and flaky, which makes your life a little easier.
Now is the time for leaching.
5. Leach Those Tannins!
There are two different ways to get the tannins out of your acorns: hot and cold leaching. As you can imagine, this involves using hot and cold water respectively.
According to a famous forager named Meredith O’Donnell, the leaching method to use will depend on which acorns you have collected. Red and black oak acorns are high in oil, while white oak acorns are not. As a result, she recommends cold leaching first and hot leaching later.
Cold leaching can be done either in running water or through multiple water changes over the course of a few days. This method preserves the starch of the acorns, which is ideal for making various baked goods. Conversely, hot leaching will cook those starches in situ. This means that whatever you bake with this dough, it will become crumbly.
Luckily, you can use this food to make grits, soups, stews, and oatmeal.
hot leaching Easy, but time consuming. Put acorns in a large pot and cover with a few inches of water. I like to use a large two-part pasta pot that has an internal, removable colander.
Boil the water, and leave the roll for 5-8 minutes. You will see the water turn a dangerous shade of dark brown. Drain the acorns through a colander and rinse them well, then put them back in the pot, fill them back up with water, and repeat the process.
You may have to do this several times before the water becomes clear.
whereas cold leaching Time consuming too, there are a few ways to make it easier. If you have a river or other moving body of clean water on your property, you’re in luck! Simply put the acorns in a mesh bag (like one of those reusable produce bags). Tie it in a piece of rope and throw it in the river.
Running water will wash away the tannins from the acorns after a few days. I recommend tasting one of them after 48 hours. If it still seems bitter enough to you, toss the bag for a few more days.
Just make sure you’ve tied and secured the bag properly. It’s terrifying to put so much effort into a project only to watch mournfully from the shore as your acorns float down the abyss without thinking.
I have also heard of people who put these mesh bags in their toilet tanks to wash away the acorns every time the tank is full. While I’ve never tried this method myself, it sounds good in theory!
Another easy way to cool acorns is to grind them into food. Toss about one cup of shelled acorn meat in a blender, then cover with at least 4 inches of water. Grind it until it becomes a thick meal, and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. Then drain all the water through cheesecloth, scrape the food back into the jar, add the water, and repeat the process.
The water should be lighter and lighter each time you change it. Keep repeating this process until the food tastes bitter to you.
6. Dry Everything
Once it’s all fixed, you need to dry it all.
If you took large acorns, spread them on a dehydrator tray and dry them at 135°F for at least 10 hours. Check them out after this time to see if they feel dry enough for you. You’ll know they’re ready when they feel quite brittle, and you can halve them with little effort.
Alternatively, you can dry them in the oven on low heat as needed. Just be sure to keep the temperature below 150°F or you’ll cook off all the good starch in them.
If you have made and leeched acorns, cover some baking trays in parchment paper and cover them before placing them in the oven or dehydrator. Spread it thin so it dries evenly, and you’ll know it’s done when it breaks easily between your fingers.
7. Grinder time!
If you are going to use your acorn flour for grits or oatmeal, you can use the meal as is. For baking, though, you’ll need a finer flour to work with.
A grain mill works best for this, but since I don’t have one, I grind everything I need in small batches with a coffee grinder. Pulse the acorns a few times to break them into smaller pieces, then grind them into a powder. You can also grind dry food finely with this method.
How to Cook or Bake With Your Acorn Flour
Generally, acorn flour is mixed with other flours to suit the recipe on hand. For baked goods, you can add up to 50% acorn flour that you like. I’ve found it blends well with quinoa, rice, and sorghum flour with a little tapioca starch and xanthan gum for gluten-free baking. If you can eat gluten, try it with wheat, spelt, or einkorn.
Use flour just like any other dry ingredient. One thing I would suggest is to try some established recipes before experimenting on your own. Here are some for you to try:
I store whole or half dried acorns in plastic bags in the freezer, but there are other methods for long-term storage. For example, if you vacuum seal acorn meats or meals, those bags will last for years in the freezer.
Properly dried acorns will keep for a few months at room temperature in a sealed glass jar. It can take even longer if the jar is in a cold cellar. Just taste it before cooking or cooking to see if it has gone rancid.
Potential Allergy Awareness
Are you allergic to other tree nuts like walnuts, beech, walnuts, pecans etc.? If so, talk to your health care professional before eating them. Foraging is great fun, but anaphylactic reactions are rare. While acorn allergies are fairly rare, it is better to err on the side of caution.
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