Have you ever thought about harvesting acorns from the many oak trees in your area? Here in North Texas we have a big variety of oak trees, all of which drop acorns in the fall. We have live oak, red oak, white oak, post oaksâ€¦the list goes on.
Right outside my window, in the big grassy area in front of my apartment building, we have a couple of large live oaks. Because Iâ€™m on the second floor, I can see the leaves and branches just a few feet from my window. Already, I can see the small budding acorns that will fall by the end of November, littering the walkways and making squirrels and nut-eating birds happy. I canâ€™t wait until they ripen and fall so I can start harvesting them! Granted, many acorns are bitter â€“ a byproduct of the tannins they contain. But I can leach the tannins from them, just as the American Indians did â€“ and continue to do â€“ when making them ready for consumption.
All you have to do is grab a pound or two of acorns, check them for black holes to make sure theyâ€™re not infested with worms and shell them. Before you remove the husks or shells, though set them outside in the bright sun to dry. If you donâ€™t have an area to dry them in, turn on the oven at 175 degrees and dry them for about an hour. This kills any bugs that might be on or inside them and prevents mold from developing before you can shell them.
The little husk that attaches the nut to the tree isnâ€™t the shell. The shell is the hard outer layer covering the entire nut. Once youâ€™ve got the husky cap off, take a pair of pliers and gently squeeze the nut. This will loosen the shell so you can peel it off. Donâ€™t crush it, though. Once youâ€™ve peeled all the nuts, grind them. You can do this by putting them through a grinder or a food processor. Keep the nuts in chunks. Youâ€™re not making acorn butter. Just get them chopped enough to make leaching the tannins easy.
Boil some water in a pan and pour the hot water over the acorns and let sit for an hour. Drain the water from the meal through a sieve and repeat the process. Do this until the nuts no longer have a bitter taste. This might vary depending on which type of acorn nut youâ€™ve got. Some oak trees produce a naturally mild acorn, while others grow very bitter nuts. Once youâ€™ve got your acorns sufficiently leached, pour the meal into a cheesecloth over another bowl to drain them. Once youâ€™ve got the cheesecloth full, gather it up like a makeshift bag and squeeze the remaining liquid from it.
If you have a food dehydrator, spread your meal onto the trays to dry. If not, just spread it onto a cookie sheet and dry it at a low temperature. Once your meal is dry, you can store it in a cool and dry place for when youâ€™re ready to use it. If you make whole grain bread, add the acorn meal to it. The nuts have a nice flavor reminiscent of sunflowers. Remember, the meal has natural oils, so donâ€™t store it for more than a week, otherwise itâ€™ll go rancid.
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