Food and Cooking
Food for Thought
by Karen Sherwood
The first time I gathered and prepared acorns and brought them
into flour, I knew it wouldn't be the last. It is a spiritual
experience that brings one back to the roots of our ancestors. As we
approach Autumn, we are reminded of what that season has to bear.
One of the first things I am reminded of is that it is acorn season.
As the leaves on the trees change from a deep green to fiery reds
and yellows, it is time once again to don our harvesting baskets in
search of the acorn. Approaching the great oak and giving thanks, we
carefully search out the good healthy acorns which are heavier,
smooth and lacking any holes. Imperfect ones are left behind to feed
the deer and squirrels and nourish the earth in the upcoming months.
Returning home, one should prepare the acorns right away, or dry
them thoroughly for future preparation. Those acorns not dried
suitably will soon mildew, putting to waste all your efforts. Next,
comes the task of shelling. Choose your favorite dimpled stone and
place an acorn in the depression. With a comfortable hand stone or
mano, tap the acorn and the shell will easily split. After removing
the nut from the shell, you then want to peel off the thin skin
surrounding the nut. This skin is very bitter and makes for an
inferior flour if left on. To loosen the skin, split the acorns in
half along the groove, and gently roll them between your hands. The
skins should now easily come off.
Next, you must leach nearly all the species of acorns of their
tannic acid to remove any bitterness. There are many different
techniques, but probably the easiest way is to simply boil the nuts
for about 5 to 10 minutes. The most important part of this step is
to make sure your water is to a full boil before adding the acorns.
Many people have neglected this step, only to end up with bitter
flour. It may take up to three changes of water to bring all the
tannic acid out of the nuts. You may taste the warm acorns to see if
they are very bitter and require additional boiling. Make sure that
with each fresh batch of water, that you bring the pot to a boil
before adding the acorns. Finally, with that completed, you are
ready to make flour. Choose your favorite grinding method, whether
it be mortar and pestle, or "survival Quisinart." By grinding the
soft, wet acorns you make your job much easier. I used to dry out
the leached nuts, then grind them, only to be at the metate or
grinding mill for what seemed an eternity. Out of necessity one day,
I found an easier way, so I now pass that on to you. Wet acorns make
for easier grinding. You now have a wonderful rich, dark brown flour
which you can use damp or dry thoroughly for future use. Acorn bread
or muffins are some great ways to use your new flour. One of my most
used recipes follows. I hope you will seek out the wondrous oak in
your neighborhood, and enjoy one of her many gifts, the acorn.
A wonderful book on acorns and their preparation is It Will
Live Forever, by Bev Ortiz, published by Heyday Books, Berkeley,
CA. It describes the Yosemite Indian tradition of acorn preparation.
Not only is it a thorough description of the techniques involved,
but it gives due respect to the tree and the people whose lives
depended upon this wonderful plant. I highly recommend it.