How We Made Acorn Flour (A Lesson in Bitterness)

We gather the acorns from our oak tree.

A Bowl of Acorns

Then, we carefully crack the shells and remove the nutmeat (I use a little hammer and a pick).

Cracking Acorns (with a Hammer!)

 

Shelling Acorns

We shell about 2 cups worth of nuts because this is our first experiment.

Acorn Nutmeat

Then, it’s time for the long process of removing the tannins.  I learn that tannins can harm you; they inflict stomach distress and kidney problems if you consume large amounts of this bitter substance.  Removing the bitter tannins requires time and a steady flush of fresh water–either cold (like in a stream over a week-long period as the Native Americans did) or boiling hot (the quicker way).

Removing Acorn Tannins by Boiling Method

When boiling, the water turns a deep brownish-black.  Every 20 minutes, I change the water.  After several hours, the water boils clear, and that tells me the tannins are gone.  To be sure, I’m told to taste a nut.  If it tastes like a sweet pasta–bland and not bitter–I’ve successfully leached the tannins.  Since my acorns are from a Red Oak, they taste supremely bitter (as opposed to a White Oak), so removing these tannins takes nearly 4 hours.  If I had finely chopped the nuts, I could leach them faster.

The verb leach, by the way, means to drain away and remove.  Here I am, leaching bitterness out of acorns, and the spiritual parallel rises up as surely as the sweet smell of acorn nutmeat.   Those nuts submit to the process of cleansing, of uncomfortably stressful temperatures, over a long period of time.  No wonder life seems hard sometimes.

Perhaps I’m being leached.

Finally, I take the leached nuts and grind them in a food processor.  I want a course grind for a hearty, nutty bread.

Grinding the Acorn Nuts

I add a few cups to a regular bread recipe (flour, yeast, honey or sugar, oil, egg).  I knead the dough, let it rise for one hour, and bake it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  I’ve heard you want to use equal parts acorn flour and another flour or even cornmeal.

Acorn Flour for Bread

 

Acorn Bread Loaf

The bread tastes absolutely delicious.  It’s a warm, nutty, rich bread that the girls spread with sweet cream butter for breakfast.  I’m not an expert in acorns, but the research claims that as long as you leach out the tannins, your acorns can provide muffins, breads, pancakes, cakes, and a whole variety of baked goods.

But you need that fresh water, boiled for a long time.

Lord, leach me.  Remove every bitter thing in my heart.

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Journal:  Can you imagine the work that went into making food in centuries past?

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