Something everyone interested in homesteading, self-sufficiency, or just the general outdoors needs to look into is foraging. There is still time to get into acorns this year, and so to make some of the tastiest cookies you’ll eat.
Making Acorn Flour
The acorn mast is hard to predict; a great crop comes every 2-5 years. Under certain trees, the spread and number of nuts resemble a brown gravel road in a good year. I once found some white and chestnut oaks near a ridge that dropped some massive acorns and gathered about eight pounds in about that many minutes. I figured it was time to take action and see just how much work goes in to making acorn flour.
Step One: Float Test
Honeybee helped me fill a washtub with water and we dumped the acorns in and stirred. After a couple of minutes, we discarded those that floated (they are bad). We stirred some more to knock any dirt off the good acorns.
Step Two: Drying
We then placed the acorns on towels and laid them where they’d get the most sun on those unseasonably warm, early-October days. Drying the acorns separates the nutmeat from the shell somewhat, making for easier cracking and shelling. I let them go for 2-3 days. They could have dried longer, but I was afraid they might go rancid.
Step Three: Cracking and Shelling
I found the best way for me to get the nutmeat was with a nutcracker and knife, sitting at the kitchen table listening to audiobooks. As I removed the nutmeat (you’ll still have some acorns with grubs in them FYI), I placed it in water to keep oxidation to a minimum. I then coarsely ground the nutmeat in our NutriBullet.
Step Four: Leaching
I chose the cold-leaching method so that the product would stick together during cooking (and it seems to be the easiest method). I placed the coarsely ground acorns in an old gallon jar filled with water and stuck it in the fridge. I changed the water several times a day. This process removes the tannins, which taste bitter. When there was basically no taste whatsoever, I knew it was time to move to the next step.
Step Five: Drying and Fine-Grinding
For the first batch, I spread the damp, coarsely-ground acorns on a baking sheet and placed them in our $17,000 dehydrator. Remember that unseasonably warm and sunny weather? That allowed me to dry the acorns in our Honda Civic. I left a couple of windows lowered slightly to allow moisture to escape and for air circulation. I finished that batch off that evening after the sun went down in our oven on its lowest setting. For the second batch I made, I used my parents’ Nesco dehydrator.
After drying, I placed the coarse acorn flour in our coffee grinder (hand-crank BTW) and went to cranking. It took a while–it was a workout–but it was worth it. What I produced was a beautiful, light-brown flour that I made chocolate chip cookies with. They were spectacular! Perhaps the healthiest cookies I ever ate.
Overall Thoughts on Acorn Flour
I won’t get into the details of the process or the history of acorns, or the healthfulness of avoiding grain flour, but I will say that acorn flour is gluten-free and that if I had to, I could produce flour for my family. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming.
Starches are referred to as the “forager’s dilemma” since they’re hard to find and harvest in any significant quantities, but we can at least rely on a good nut mast every few years if that were our only option. In the meantime, I’ll still buy White Lily and King Arthur.