Acorns are a beautiful, wild, abundant and sustainable source of food. I used to tread over acorns only picking them up to admire their beauty and delight in their little caps. It never occurred to me to forage for them until I read the book “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead. In the book, the main character, Sam, spends months in the mountain, foraging for food and sleeping in a shelter he ‘made’ from the hollow of a tree. Years later, my kids and I finally learned how to make the acorn pancakes from the book!
Hosted by Dust and Tribe, this workshop taught us how to shell, grind and process acorns from the Live Oak tree that grow abundantly throughout California. We used a hot water process in which the ground acorns were placed in a cotton bag (nut milk bag) in a pot of boiling water. Once the water turned brown (about 15 minutes for the first batch) indicating that the tannins had been removed, the water was exchanged with fresh boiling water. This process occurred several times until the acorns no longer tasted bitter. With each water exchange, the water grew lighter and lighter, while the acorns tasted less and less bitter. Don’t toss that tannin-rich water! There are so many good uses for it!
Things to note:
Eating an unprocessed acorn or two isn’t going to kill you! But the bitter taste is quite a turn off. As you process the acorns, occasionally taste them for bitterness.
You can also do a cold-water process to remove tannins. Place acorn pieces in a jar of cold water and leave it in the refrigerator for a day or two until the water turns brown. Replace the water with fresh cold water and continue until the acorns are no longer bitter.
Natural tannin-leaching occurs in the wild. If you find acorns in the spring under layers of leaves, chances are, the rain water will have leached out some or much of the tannins. In fact, some animals bury their acorns for this very reason!
For best results and ease of cracking open the acorns, dry them out for days or in the oven on a very low temperature (about 100 degrees with the oven door open for about an hour).