Acorns aren’t just for squirrels. Native Americans ground acorns into flour and used the flour to make hearty stews and breads.
I, of course, used my acorn flour to make cupcakes. Acorns (once properly prepared for eating – more on that later) are walnut-like, but have a unique flavor all their own: sweet, subtle, and earthy. You can eat them as nuts, but I recommend going the Native American route and turning them into acorn flour. Preparing the flour is a time-consuming process (three days, excluding foraging for the acorns), but it’s a great pre-Thanksgiving project to teach your little pilgrims about Native American foods (hint: they didn’t eat green bean casserole).
How to Make Acorn Flour
Before I get into the details, you should know that I learned everything I know about making acorn flour from my friend Bryan. Bryan spends half the year teaching survival skills and is an expert on this sort of thing. You’ll see as you read further that I modernized some of his suggested primitive methods (he wasn’t happy about this, but you will be).
Step 1: Collecting Acorns
Your first step in making acorn flour is to forage for acorns. Look for them on the ground beneath an oak tree. All varieties of oak produce edible acorns, so you don’t need to worry about dying (this is always my biggest fear with foraging of any sort). However, some acorns are much easier to work with than others. Bryan warned me against using Pin Oak acorns – they are more work because of their small size and they also have more tannins (bitter flavor) to remove. He also warned that some oaks, like Black Oak, have a thicker skin that will need to be removed – other varieties don’t have this skin. He highly recommends White Oaks, Burr Oaks, and Red Oaks. But, again, you can work with whatever you have.
I found that two pounds of acorns yielded three cups of flour. Always get more acorns than you think you’ll need because some of them will turn out to be rotten when you open them up.
Step 2: Cracking open the acorns
Traditionally, acorns are cracked open using rocks. Bryan has special rocks that he uses for this purpose. The rock on the bottom has a groove where you set the acorn (shown below). You then bang the top rock over the acorn to crack it. The whole experience is very satisfying in a primal way.
Most of us, however, don’t have the perfect rocks just sitting around waiting to be used. If you don’t have rocks, a nutcracker does the job just fine. If, after cracking, the acorn is black or crumbles easily in your hand, it is rotten and you should toss it. If it is a hard brown nut, keep it.
Step 3: Break the acorns into smaller pieces
Bryan made me eat an acorn at this stage. It tasted like dish soap. That unpleasant flavor is the tannin (a bitter plant compound). As miserable as the taste was, it was smart of him to have me try it. Then, I knew exactly what the flavor was that I wanted to remove in the next steps. To remove the tannin (leach them out), Bryan recommends that you first break the acorns into smaller pieces. You could again use rocks to do this, but a food processor is so much easier!
Soak the acorns in a bowl of water overnight to soften them (this makes it easier on your food processor and keeps it from overheating). Then, food process the acorns until they are broken in small pieces.
Step 4: Leaching the tannins
- Find a cotton cloth that you don’t care about (it will get stained) and wrap your chopped acorns in it.
- Set the cloth in the sink and fill the sink with water.
- Let the acorns rest in the water for 30 minutes.
- Drain the sink and squeeze all of the excess water out of the acorn sack.
- Soak for another thirty minutes and drain again.
- Taste! Here’s where things will vary, depending on the type of oak your acorn came from. The acorns may taste great at this point or you may have a lot more tannin to remove. It took about two and a half hours to remove the tannin from my acorns. If the acorns still taste very bitter/unpleasant after the first two soaks, you can increase the soaking time for the next soak to a full hour. If they taste somewhat palatable but still a bit off, continue soaking just thirty minutes at a time until you don’t taste the tannin. You don’t want to over-soak because you run the risk of removing some of the acorn flavor.
- Set the leached acorns out to dry overnight. They should still be damp for the next step, but not soaking wet.
Step 5: Turn the acorns to flour
Bryan (and Native Americans) would use rocks to grind the acorns into flour. I put all of the leached acorn pieces into my Vitamixblender and twenty seconds later I had acorn flour ready to use in my cupcakes.
An Extra Special Thanks to Bryan (Who Happens to Be Single)
As an extra special thanks to Bryan, I’m going to try to find him a date. Does anyone in St. Louis want to date a smart, fun-to-be-around guy who knows his way around a kitchen and can survive in the wilderness? I may have a man for you (drop me an email for more info).