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HomeSurvivalFood and Cooking

Some 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.


Cranberry Acorn Muffins
2 cups acorn flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
I tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
I cup milk
I cup maple syrup 2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup spicebush blossoms or dried clover blossoms
Mix together all dry ingredients then stir in wet ones. Add cranberries and blossoms. Pour into oiled muffin tins and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

From True Tracks, Summer-Fall 1996, published by the Tracker School.
For more articles from True Tracks, visit the Tracker Trail website.