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Acorn Mush Preparation  RSS feed

 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: But the American Indians, I gather, buried them for a year in a stream bed or used lye. 



That's the method most often reported online, but some of the tribes that used acorns the most for their food didn't use this method at all.  In California, many tribes relied on acorns year-round as their staple food.  The traditional method of harvesting acorns involved gathering them (often climbing the trees and beating them off the trees with long sticks) in early fall and then drying them, then storing them in graneries (see the picture below).  When they were to be used for cooking, they were shelled with rocks (another picture below of an old processing site remaining in a state park in CA).  Then a shallow pit was dug in the sand near a creek, smoothed, and the pounded meal was spread in that.  Women would pour water over the meal until it was properly leached (another photo below, of a Hupa woman doing this).
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'Tis the season again!

And, it's a mast year.  I got hit several times while gathering and my fridge is full. I can't procrastinate on processing them anymore because I ran out of space, but I am still trying to get the tannins out of these.

First, I tried drying them.  Bad idea. They go bad and the worms eat most of it.  So, I started keeping them in the fridge. That works better.

Second, cracking them.  Last year took forever. I need something faster.  I have three gallons and more are falling.  So, this time I tried cutting them.  Hard and hard to peel the skins.  Then I tried smashing with hammers and sticks while in a plastic bag.  Destroyed the bag, but did pretty good at the acorns, but it caused another problem: sorting the shells.  The shells do not float. Overall it took several hours to get the bad bits and shell out. I am working on a method involving running over them with my truck to speed things up in that phase, maybe soaking them overnight so the shells don't shatter? But anyway, I have about 5 cups done and my fingers aren't sore like last time.

Third, the inner skin: I'm calling this "whole wheat" because that skin is stuck good. I'm not even going to try to get it off.

Fourth, removing the tannins:  Cold soaking simply didn't work last year.  I tried a soak with running water this year.  Nope. It's like the cold made the acorn seize up and not release the tannins.  Tried boiling.  That sorta worked and kept our house real warm, but still there's a bitterness that seems to volatilize in my mouth in the bigger pieces.  It kinda reminds me a little of grapefruit.  I ground it and reboiled it. None of the reddish tannin color is coming out any more, it's just still bitter. Any one know why? I'm letting it sit in the fridge again because it needs to drain anyway and if it volatilizes, maybe some air exposure will help? I've kept them under water most of the time to prevent them from oxidizing.

Now I know why our pin oak is eaten, despite its small seed and the red oak is barely touched by the squirrels this time of year.

Any more advice appreciated! I'm hoping the fridge+overnight soak will cause slight sprouting to test that. Then I think I will try a batch roasted in shell to see what that does.  Then there's that pinch of ash for a lye soak... hopefully I'll get this soon!

A lye soaking reminds me a lot of how olives are processed, another unpalatable food made delicious. Olives can also be processed by a salt brine. Anyone try that on acorns?
 
Amit Enventres
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Just read this pretty thorough explanation of the processing of red oak acorns.  I have a wood burning stove.  I think my next batch will be processed with some ash, or I also heard clay is good too, but our neighbor has a chem lawn and I wonder how much pesticide clay can hold...hmmm...

http://members.efn.org/~finnpo/indigenia/samprice.html
 
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Just met a permaculturist gathering acorns out by the highway.  She is an elderly East Asian woman, and seemed to speak no English, but I held up an acorn to try to communicate that I also eat them.  (Didn't remember Google translate till later).  A reminder that these knowledge sets are not obscure to some people today, buy there are people practicing permaculture, getting low-labor, hyperlocal food from tree crops in cold climate for staples+calories.  They may not wear the label "permaculturist" but they must know what they're doing, well enough to make the acorns palatable and make it worth their while.

Amit, thanks for sharing your results.  Ever try sprouting first??  So far that tastes better than soaked whole peeled after 3 days in a huge quantity of water for the tiny amount of nuts we put in.  It sounds like there's no evidence that that's traditional, but I don't hear that there's evidence that it wasn't either. In other words, maybe they started by gathering only the ones with sprouts?? Maybe they made a deal with the squirrel?  Jonathan Bates and Eric toensmeier wrote about fidning the squirrels had donated a stash to them in a bucket or a shoe or something.  I think it's time that Big Squirrel was forced to contribute to the commonwealth, instead of merely taking.

For cracking,many people speak highly of the davebuilt nutcracker, cranked, cast iron.  The sprouting made hand-splitting easy peasy.  I think if there's no easy way to separate shells then cars and hammers are out.  But centrifuging in water with a seive/washing machine drum?

I should really buy the book, I'm a big cheapskate but I still want the recipes! So maybe I'll still buy one.

One more thought, the squirrels had left the huge bunch of sprouted nuts for us to find.  Imean, there were enough for them for the next six acorn recessions, but still if they like them sprouted, how come they left them for us?  Also what made them sprout?  A slope with exposed soil, rather damp...logic says it must have been pools along the slope, where the acorns rolled to and piled up, though I didn't observe that precisely...? I'll have to look more carefully next time I'm there.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Oh you mean they did not bury for a year and did not use lye either, correct? didn't know which you meant the first time I read that.  That sounds nice, if you have social support for doing the processing.  I kinda like foraging alone but processing as a group. 

Alicia Bayer wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: But the American Indians, I gather, buried them for a year in a stream bed or used lye. 



That's the method most often reported online, but some of the tribes that used acorns the most for their food didn't use this method at all.  In California, many tribes relied on acorns year-round as their staple food.  The traditional method of harvesting acorns involved gathering them (often climbing the trees and beating them off the trees with long sticks) in early fall and then drying them, then storing them in graneries (see the picture below).  When they were to be used for cooking, they were shelled with rocks (another picture below of an old processing site remaining in a state park in CA).  Then a shallow pit was dug in the sand near a creek, smoothed, and the pounded meal was spread in that.  Women would pour water over the meal until it was properly leached (another photo below, of a Hupa woman doing this).

 
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Just redid the search on sprouted acorns, and the blog post I read did come this article saying sprouting reduced tannins (in Bambara nuts) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1546053.

She boiled 8 times after the sprouting.  This was red oak acorns, in spring.

I like the fact that the ones we found were palatable after  0 soaks, and crunchy and flavorful!

Article abstract also says proteins and starches were reduced, but also that nutrient was made more bioavailable.  Seems worth it to me, it's jus pre-digestion.

Btw, I'm told there's an annual squirrel festival in Arkansas!!! Lots of recipes, contests, vendors....Talk about cutting out the middle man...!
 
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Well, after humming and haaaing over the residual bitterness which the water ran clear from and tasting the goop as passable to most people who are not as sensitive as I to bitterness (I find water from a coffee cup bitter because of the coffee aftertaste), I tried a batch of cookies with half white flour, half acorn flour.  I did one batch with coconut cream frosting and one cinnamon white chocolate.  I ended up with about 20 cookies that disappeared between myself, family, and friends in about 24 hours.  Now I have people asking for the recipe. Success!! The best part is I now a added value to oak trees in the eyes of some folk, which will hopefully translate into more trees in the future. The excitement the cookies created is high, like thst acorn gathering instinct was tapped,  or maybe it was the complete protein and other nutrients that people here are usually deficient in? Usually new foods take a certain introductory period with some probing, but not these. I bet if Whole Foods started carrying acorn flour it would sell.
And,  perhaps now I can start making room in my fridge for something besides acorns. It looks embarrassingly squirrelular in there.

Thank you all for the resources and discussion! I will continue to refine my process and report back.
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Coconut cream and sprinkles on acorn cookies
 
Alicia Bayer
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Amit Enventres wrote: I did one batch with coconut cream frosting and one cinnamon white chocolate.  I ended up with about 20 cookies that disappeared between myself, family, and friends in about 24 hours.  Now I have people asking for the recipe. Success!! 



They look fantastic!  So glad it was a success. 

If you're interested in folks who are already trying to bring acorn baking to the masses, there are a number of great organizations. Oakmeal in Greece has done a lot to further acorns as a sustainable food source.  The Acorn Initiative is a US based organization.  The New England Acorn Cooperative is another great one.  There are many wild food chefs and bloggers who regularly post acorn recipes.  There is also lots of inspiration on Instagram, where if you search for hashtags like #acornflour you'll get hundreds of pictures of folks sharing their acorn flour creations.  One of my favorite wild chefs on Instagram is Pascal Baudar, who has been posting lots of pictures of his wild (non-dairy) cheeses lately, many of which are made with acorn flour and usually with lactofermented wild foods in addition.  I highly recommend his books, too -- one is on wild food cooking (hoping to get that one for Christmas) and a wildcrafting brewer one that I have and adore, full of instructions for making wholly wild wines, beers and other spirits.  They are completely old school, with foraged plants for the yeasts and flavorings.  His books are pricey but delightful and I love his spirit.  Your library may be able to order it, too.

I don't know that acorn flour will ever be in mass market stores since it takes so much time and effort to process, but there are lots of people who sell it for income around the country, too.  It costs a small fortune, which is one reason I am happy to process my own.  And you can buy "acorn flour" on Amazon (and here is another that is well reviewed and has some comments about its uses (affiliate links).  Different brands call it acorn flour or acorn starch but it is actually acorn starch and it's available because there is a well loved Korean delicacy called Dotori-Muk  or acorn jelly.  It's not a jelly in the American way but in the British way like a savory, sliceable gelatinous dish.  It calls for acorn flour and most modern Korean cooks purchase the flour already made.  Dotori-muk takes advantage of the fact that acorn flour/starch  is similar to corn starch/flour in terms of thickening and setting up after cooking (which is why acorn flour makes wonderful polenta, tamales and such, and why it makes such a fabulous thick breakfast cereal).  Dotori-muk is a savory dish where acorn starch is cooked with water and poured into a mold to set, then sliced and seasoned with a spicy soy sauce mixture and tossed with vegetables.  Here's a recipe for dotori-muk online. I have a recipe for Dotori-muk in my acorn book and there are many variations.  To do it with home processed acorns, it's best to use the acorn starch that settles on top when you do the long cold water processing method of leaching with ground acorns, since you want the fine starch and not the heavier flour.  Think of the difference between cooking with corn starch and corn flour and you'll see why even though recipes call it acorn flour it really needs the starch for a proper result.  Anyway, there are folks who do sell it in various places!

And I know what you mean about your fridge looking like a squirrel's home.  That's currently my whole kitchen -- boxes and pails of acorns under the table and by the stairs, cookie sheets of drying acorns in my oven, roasted acorns in jars on my canning shelves, leached acorns in my fridge, etc.   I kind of love it, though.   Acorns are addictive, aren't they?  :)
 
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Nice~

I think you can get acorn flour at the Asian market usually.  It isn't really so hard to process on an industrial scale, is it? you'd just need a giant toilet?  I think the acorn flour that I bought was actually flour and not starch, though part of the material had been removed.  It was Korean.  I don't remember it mentioning starch .  This was a few years back. 

Yes, acorns are addictive, and my room is looking like a squirrel hideout too.  I've noticed I've started growing more hair on my ears and a tail.  Should I worried?

Also, my girlfriend dreamed about being attacked by acorns and eaten by them.  I think the message is clear: if roles were reversed, the acorn would eat you--so you'd better eat it preemptively!
 
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http://members.efn.org/~finnpo/indigenia/samprice.html ; Rereading this whole article--the author really uses acorns as staples and goes into a lot of detail.

The cracking method sounds like the most sensible and efficient so far--he says about 10 times as fast as a nutcracker.  If you don't have a cranked nutcracker, this would be the way to go.  put them all out ona a towel and whack them one by one, whack whack whack, to make a crack, then open each.  They have to be well dried first.

But I still sense there could be an even easier way.

He seems to have the most experience of anyone I've read so far and focuses on the acorn as a staple.
 
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https://honest-food.net/acorn-flour-recipe-cold-process/

This article says the skins are very tannic, so they're worth removing.  Shucking/winnowing.  But why wouldn't the tannin leach out anyway in the wash?? so puzzling how this all works. 

Also the previous article as preferring red acorns to white and said white are palatable even when unleached, but that is NOT my experience, only the sprouted one was.  Anyone else try this? I will try eating another, but I already feel my mouth puckering...

4 out of 5 squirrels prefer the red acorn.  Ask your squirrel about red acorns.
 
Amit Enventres
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Joshua, you're funny. 

Ah! You found premade flour! I would think acorns would be easy to process on an industrial scale.  They are certainly no more difficult than barley, and that is industrial scale.

Next question: let's say we've gone from nuts to nice flour. I heard you should store it in the freezer??? Really?
 
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Ok a miracle happened and I overcame my laziness (or at least my anticipation of laziness and therefore why bother).  One Tbs of acorn flour in my fridge soaking, and a daily phone reminder so I'll hopefully actually change it. 

Pounded then with a mortar and  pestle .  Remembered the "bonk the tip" tip partway through.  Definitely helps and decreases the flying acorn quotient (which can lead to flying squirrels, be forewarned!)

They were semi dry, not super dry.  It took about 30 minutes to do a tablespoon including pounding the acorns after, grinding, transferring to jar, and cleanupd .  I could speed up the process by doing the tip bonk thing from the start. 

Didn't winnow the inner skin, just the fuzzy skin.  Am I supposed to do both?  We'll see what the taste test reveals. 

And now to take the acorns out of my magic Julia Child fridge where they're all done instantly. 

Bon appetit!

 
Alicia Bayer
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:https://honest-food.net/acorn-flour-recipe-cold-process/

This article says the skins are very tannic, so they're worth removing.  Shucking/winnowing.  But why wouldn't the tannin leach out anyway in the wash?? so puzzling how this all works. 

Also the previous article as preferring red acorns to white and said white are palatable even when unleached, but that is NOT my experience, only the sprouted one was.  Anyone else try this? I will try eating another, but I already feel my mouth puckering...



For most varieties, the skins (testas) come off easily and it's not an issue.  There are only a few varieties where they stick and then it's best to rub it off.  None of the varieties that our family regularly processes has testas that stick so it's not an issue for us.

And no, the vast majority of white oak acorns are not tasty unleached.  You may find a rare one but unless you have a real preference for acrid flavors you are not going to find them palatable.  The tannins are unhealthy in that amount too, so that's another reason to leach them.  Interestingly, even among trees of the same variety you'll notice real differences in tannin levels.  We have some trees we process that barely need any leaching for their acorns, while others of the same type need quite a lot.  To some extent, each tree has its own unique flavor for its acorns.  :)
 
Alicia Bayer
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Amit Enventres wrote:

Next question: let's say we've gone from nuts to nice flour. I heard you should store it in the freezer??? Really?



Unless you're going to use it very soon, you should store it in the freezer.  Acorns are higher in fats and they can go rancid quickly once they're ground into flour or meal.  If you roast or dry your leached acorns, you can store those in jars indefinitely though.  You only need to refrigerate (short term) or freeze (long term) once it's ground.  There are quite a few flours that are that way -- almond, quinoa, teff, etc.  We are a gluten free family and I grind and mix up my own flours and I store most of my alternative grains and flours in a chest freezer.  That's one reason I roast our leached acorns and just grind flour as needed, to preserve freezer space.  I've had roasted acorns that had been stored in sealed jars for several years that were still delicious when ground as needed though.
 
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Alicia Bayer wrote:

Amit Enventres wrote:

Next question: let's say we've gone from nuts to nice flour. I heard you should store it in the freezer??? Really?



Unless you're going to use it very soon, you should store it in the freezer.  Acorns are higher in fats and they can go rancid quickly once they're ground into flour or meal.  If you roast or dry your leached acorns, you can store those in jars indefinitely though.  You only need to refrigerate (short term) or freeze (long term) once it's ground.  There are quite a few flours that are that way -- almond, quinoa, teff, etc.  We are a gluten free family and I grind and mix up my own flours and I store most of my alternative grains and flours in a chest freezer.  That's one reason I roast our leached acorns and just grind flour as needed, to preserve freezer space.  I've had roasted acorns that had been stored in sealed jars for several years that were still delicious when ground as needed though.



So you're saying you roast the whole acorns, unleached, then store, then wehn you want to use them you unfreeze them, grind them up, leach them and then use them
?  So complicated...how do the squirrels manage?  I guess they store them store them whole and unroasted and then they sprout them and then eat them?  Now I realize I'm not sure if the squirrels actually sprout the acorns or if I just made that up from what the "soaking grains" article from the Weston A Price society said about the general idea of soaking and fermenting. 

The squirrels are definitely keeping secrets.  I seem them sitting around on the branches, looking down at us, calling to each other in code.  They're up to something.  aiting for their moment to strike.
 
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Oh also is the testa the fuzzy skin or the smooth skin under the fuzzy skin?

Alicia Bayer wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:https://honest-food.net/acorn-flour-recipe-cold-process/

This article says the skins are very tannic, so they're worth removing.  Shucking/winnowing.  But why wouldn't the tannin leach out anyway in the wash?? so puzzling how this all works. 

Also the previous article as preferring red acorns to white and said white are palatable even when unleached, but that is NOT my experience, only the sprouted one was.  Anyone else try this? I will try eating another, but I already feel my mouth puckering...



For most varieties, the skins (testas) come off easily and it's not an issue.  There are only a few varieties where they stick and then it's best to rub it off.  None of the varieties that our family regularly processes has testas that stick so it's not an issue for us.

And no, the vast majority of white oak acorns are not tasty unleached.  You may find a rare one but unless you have a real preference for acrid flavors you are not going to find them palatable.  The tannins are unhealthy in that amount too, so that's another reason to leach them.  Interestingly, even among trees of the same variety you'll notice real differences in tannin levels.  We have some trees we process that barely need any leaching for their acorns, while others of the same type need quite a lot.  To some extent, each tree has its own unique flavor for its acorns.  :)

 
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Oh also is the testa the fuzzy skin or the smooth skin under the fuzzy skin?




It's the smooth dark brown skin like a peanut skin.
 
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So you're saying you roast the whole acorns, unleached, then store, then wehn you want to use them you unfreeze them, grind them up, leach them and then use them
?  So complicated...how do the squirrels manage?  I guess they store them store them whole and unroasted and then they sprout them and then eat them?  Now I realize I'm not sure if the squirrels actually sprout the acorns or if I just made that up from what the "soaking grains" article from the Weston A Price society said about the general idea of soaking and fermenting.



We do it several ways.  There are benefits to any of them.  One of my favorite ways is to hot water leach them whole (repeated changes of boiling water) and then roast them.  I store them in jars and grind them in my Vitamix grain mill when I need flour.  You can also use a coffee grinder.  I also do the cold water soaking method, where I grind them and soak them in cold water in jars in the fridge, pouring off the tannins twice a day until the water is clear.  Then I generally pour off the water and dry the meal, and store that in the freezer.  You can also pour off the water and freeze that as "acorn mush" and use that for cooking.  People do that a lot if they use acorns as an ingredient rather than for baking (like in soups, ravioli filling, dips and spreads, etc.).

Squirrels and birds like blue jays basically do cold water leaching over time -- they bury them whole or stick them in trees and rain water slowly leaches the tannins.  They also are said to eat the milder ones like white oak acorns first and wait on the others until later in the year when rain water has taken care of lots of the tannins for them.  They will eventually sprout and be milder and healthier, and any that are found in spring I'm sure will be enjoyed that way, but I don't know of wildlife purposely sprouting them.  I do know that some foragers prefer to gather in the spring and get the sprouted ones.  They're milder, healthier and you know they're all viable (no weevils).

Every way you process acorns results in a pretty unique flavor.  Roasted acorn flour is really deliciously nutty, sweet and almost buttery.  Cold water leached, dried acorn meal and flour is much milder.  Boiling water processing also removes more of the starch and fat, which changes the nutrition and flavor somewhat.  It's all good, and everybody has their own preferred methods.  If I'm making something like racahout (an ancient Turkish hot drink made with acorns and a sweetener, that was also cooked to make a porridge) or acorn coffee or extract, then I like using roasted acorn flour for the richest flavor.  If I'm making acorn pancakes or tamales, then I prefer the lighter, starchier cold water leached acorn flour.  It's all delicious and versatile though.  There's no wrong way, as long as you get rid of the tannins.  The only method I personally won't do is the toilet tank method.  :)
 
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OK, further adventures of Oak B. here.  I soaked, I changed, I tasted--still a bit tannin-y.  Erg!  7 days!  I did not change twice a day, but it was about 4 Tbs in a jar that holds about a pint of water I'd guestimate.  What bugs me is the thought that so much leaching must be taking out a lot of nutrient too.  I am even more stubborn about the hot water method for that reason.

I also tried baking with some HMart acorn starch, and ew.  I did not follow a recipe, I thought butter would be sufficient to make something at least approximating rye "pancakes" which I have found palatable in the past.

Today I learned that butter can't solve all my problems.  Sometimes you need honey too.

Yeah, the honey has more aftertaste than the acorns and sort cuts through the edge of acorn that cuts through the butter. 

For the truly short-attention-spanned, this is a tough nut to crack.  But I am determined to try my deliberate-sprouting method.

Thanks so much for posting all that info Alicia!  The water-in-tree method makes a lot of sense.  I guess it's gotta work reasonably well with snow too? or just infrequent melts? as long as the water gets changed out eventually, it's a really patient process, but low labor.  I like it.

Also, it seems that if you store nuts in that way then squirrels arent going to eat them, they'll just keep leaching them.  . . hm...predator protection. . .how bout some return of the surplus, squirrels??
 
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So this is how I imagine that went down.

A marketing dude walked into the woods and met an oak tree and said, "Hey Oak tree, you could really make a business here.  You make far more acorns than you can consume--in fact you don't consume any acorns at all, unless you count the like one or two that become the next oak tree.  And your friends all like what you do, and give you compliments all the time. 

"But have you thought about your future? who's going to take care of you when you can't take care of the community anymore?"

         --Well I enjoy making acorns for the squirrels and feeding them, I'm not really much of a businessperson I'm just a tree.
--Yeah, but you could be helping a lot more people, Oak, you could be scaling your impact.
         --Oak A, that's a good point.  I like helping people.
--Great.  But first you need to make your product less accessible.  if everyone can just come and get acorns for free, what's the incentive to pay you for your acorns? you need to make them work for them.  Then you can charge for the labor.  Like suppose they needed to be soaked before you could eat them, for a looooong time perhaps, in a really inconvenient way!
         --Oak A., I'll put some sour bitter astringent stuff in them so that people will have to leach them for a long time in order to be able to enjoy the taste.
--Great.  And then you need to put them in some kind of packaging.  It's no good just having your nuts hanging out in the open air.
         --Well I have so many nuts I figure if I lose some I'll still have nuts.
--That's great, but for shipping them you need packaging.
         --Well, I can make little wooden bowls for them, I'm really good at making things out of wood and I can make curvy things so I'll make bowls that are really sturdy for shipping.  I like my nuts.  They're really big.  Look how big my nuts are! See?
--Yeah, can you lay off the "my nuts are big" talk, that makes humans insecure.
         --Why, I didn't think you humans had any nuts?
--That's exactly what I'm saying, just try not to talk about "nuts" at all, let's just call them "acorns."
         --But acorns are really big nuts.
--Awesome job with the packaging.  Almost ready to go.  Now you just need to make sure that there's an expiration date on it, or else people will just buy when the prices are low and the rest of the year they'll use their storehouse instead of paying high prices.
         --But I thought I was just doing this to help people.  How does having the price be high help people?
--Because there are a LOT of expenses related to starting in business.  You need insurance, you need an accountant, you need QuickBooks, you need a domain name.  If you can't pay your expenses, you'll go out of business entirely, and then you can't help people either.
         --Oh, Oak A., I see.  OK, well I'll put extra fat in the acorns so they go rancid in like three minutes so they have to be kept in the freezer after they're done with all the other processing.  Is that better?
--Perfect.  OK, so you start pumping out the new and improved hard-to-process TM acorns and I'll be back in a week to talk about our next steps.
         --Oak A.

And then the marketer went on his way and Oak A. never heard from him again.  He probably saw an opportunity to make it big with chestnuts in the 1920's and the rest is history.  And to this day, acorns are a  &(*&*(load of work to process and eat.

 
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Hi everyone.. just a quick question and I apologize if this has been covered already.

When you're hot leaching, how long do you tend to let each round of water boil or simmer or whatever before transferring to the next batch of clean water? Also, how clear do you want the water in order to know it's done? I'm currently trying to leach my first small batch at the moment. They are white oak acorns, probably a quercus alba with maybe some bur oak genetics, but pretty good sized acorns. I didn't really chop or grind them up before leaching so some are still whole or at least split in half while some got more crunched up during the shell cracking. I've done at least 7-8 water changes already and its still pretty dark every time and the meal still seems kinda astringent. I'm happy to keep going but if it always takes this long I might just try cold leaching instead.

Sorry for no pictures, but if that would be helpful I'd be happy to take some.

Thanks!
-WY
 
Alicia Bayer
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Mike Patterson wrote: When you're hot leaching, how long do you tend to let each round of water boil or simmer or whatever before transferring to the next batch of clean water? Also, how clear do you want the water in order to know it's done?



I generally do each boil until it's the color of dark tea.  Be sure to always transfer to boiling water (I keep two pots going at the same time).  Transferring to cool water and bringing it up to a boil again will lock in the tannins.  Even among white oaks, there is a tremendous variety in terms of tannins -- even between trees of the same species.  Yours sounds like a lot for white oaks.  You do not need to get all the tannins out though.  A little astringency is fine.  Assuming you're going to roast or dry the acorns and use them for flour, their flavor will improve greatly during the roasting and they'll also be mixed with other ingredients (often with other flours too) and that will mellow the flavor too.  You don't want to boil out all of their taste (which will come through more when you bake or cook with them). Also keep in mind that some tannins improve flavors.  That's why we add black tea to homemade wine. 

I wouldn't cold water leach after doing boiling water.  I'd say roast or dry your acorns and try cooking with them.  If there are too many tannins then you'll know for next time, but I'm guessing once it's roasted and cooked with then it will be good.  HTH!
 
Mike Patterson
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Thanks Alicia. After a couple more soaks I've called it good. I tried to roast them in the oven but it might not have been hot enough. They're dry though, and I'll probably just grind into flour with my blender.

-WY
 
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Every now and then, I get very informative emails from Marjory Wildcraft at the Grow Network.  This one is about the fastest way to process acorns. "10-Minute Acorns"

How to Eat Acorns: The Absolute Easiest Way - Scott Sexton

https://thegrownetwork.com/how-to-eat-acorns-easiest-way/

  This is the by far the easiest, fastest, and overall best method for processing acorns that I have ever come across.

Prepare to have your expectations blown out of the water by this super simple method.

Start by dumping your shelled acorns into a blender. Add water. The quantity isn’t really important. You just want the blender to be able to function. Now start your blender and let it go until the acorns are ground to a pulp. The longer you let it go, the better this will work. A minute or two is probably good. In a survival scenario, you could accomplish the same thing with a rock. But until then, a blender is much faster and easier.

Now pour the “acorn smoothie” into a cloth strainer bag. In a survival situation, you could use a clean sock. Now close the bag and hold it under running water in your sink. Massage the bag, allowing it to absorb water and then squeezing it back out. Do this until the water runoff is clear. Now squeeze out all the water you can, open the bag, and have a little pinch of the acorn meal. If it’s bitter, go back to massaging it under the water. Don’t be afraid to massage it a bit longer than you think it needs. Lingering tannins can throw the taste of your food off. The massaging process will probably take 3-7 minutes.



Please see the article for the rest of the details.

Here is another article on acorns:

https://thegrownetwork.com/acorns-a-major-north-american-food-source/

Both articles have recipes.
 
Alicia Bayer
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Yes, I have that method in my acorn foraging book too, called fast cold water leaching.  You do lose most of the starch when you do that method, but it's an option if you want to process acorn flour quickly.  It works better with lower tannin acorns but with those it can be as short as an 8-10 minute process.  Be sure not to grind it too fine or you'll end up with a messy paste that will not work at all though, and you'll end up losing most of your precious acorn flour down the drain.  Also, this method wastes quite a lot of water unless you do it in a clean stream or other natural running water source.

 
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I tried something similar to thst method last year (only I did it by hand) and my mush was still bitter.  I tried vaguely cold leaching this year and am convinced hot is much better.  Plus, this time of year a pot of boiling food is a good thing. 

As for the squirrels conspiracy, the ones here really do communicate with us. They are kind of like little monkeys.  When I was out one day a squirrel was biting each acorn once and then throwing them down on my head.  The squirrels also bit every squash I left out once too. I think that was clearly a "mine" type move. Luckily our squash "heal". The acorns on the other hand are for the squirrels.

After much contemplation I think the key to the leaching might be chemistry. Acid + base.  Tannic acid + basic water or subsoil/rock. I will be verifying that soon. *pushes up chemistry goggles*
 
Amit Enventres
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So I began a leaching with a small sprinkle of ash or food grade calcium carbonate.  I think it worked. The acorns were vigorously loosing bitterness.  The bad news is after about  12 hours of hot leaching the water was still  brown and there's still some bitterness. Perhaps because adding the exact amount of base is hard....perhaps I need a sea shell or two to boil in there so the base can leach as necessary? Thoughts?
 
Amit Enventres
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Good ole Wikipedia to the rescue:

"Adding baking soda to the water to raise its pH level will accelerate the process of leaching, as the more alkaline solution can draw out tannic acid from the wood faster than the pH-neutral water.[25]"

Now back to peeling...

The process reminded me of peeling garlic,  so I looked up how to do that fast.  Anyone try this on acorns or cracked acorns? Shake vigorously in a large container.
https://youtu.be/Dc7w_PGSt9Y
 
Alicia Bayer
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I was curious as I've never heard of that so I looked it up.  Wikipedia did say that, but it was about leaching tannins from driftwood for aquariums and not for acorns as food.  While it may work, I would wonder how it would affect the nutrition and taste of the acorns.  I've always avoided cooking beans with baking soda even though it helps soften them because it destroys some of their nutrients.  I went looking for more information on that aspect and found some information that adds to the discussion.

This cooking site has information about why baking soda makes vegetables look greener but why you shouldn't use it:

"So why not take advantage of this known quality of bicarbonate of soda and use it in cooking to improve the appearance of your green beans?

The answer is simple and direct: the chemical reaction that produces the carbon dioxide also destroys the nutrients in food, and in particular the vitamins. You are trading nutritional content for the sake of appearance. And it is a severe trade; almost total loss."

And this cooking site had information about baking soda destroying the protein (to some extent) and vitamins (to a larger extent) when added to beans:

"While baking soda speeds cooking and can reduce flatulence, it also has negative impacts on nutrition. Ku et al. (cited above) noted protein destruction when cooking tripled when baking soda was added. But the more significant concern is B vitamins. Again from the Seker bean article:

    [A]lkali condition may cause further destruction in the Vitamin B contents, especially thiamin and riboflavin (Swaminathan, 1974). Therefore tap water might be a good alternative to protect vitamins and have a moderate decrease for the flatulence factors."

Also, be sure when you do hot water processing that you always transfer from boiling water to boiling water.  Never drain your acorns and put them in cold water to heat up again or you'll lock in the tannins.  I assume you know this but I thought I'd mention it.
 
Amit Enventres
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Alicia- Good to know about vitamin break down. No, I haven't done hot water to hot water. I will try that. Also, nutrition wise, does the same thing happen with ash or calcium carbonate? I couldn't get the tannins out much at all with my water at pH neutral and the amount of boiling I had to do because of poor leaching probably also had a totally negative affect on nutrient content. Plus, traditionally hot rocks from a fire which would have ash and maybe minerals such as those found in baking soda and limestone would be thrown in the water with the acorns...I'm kind of on the side of: if that's what it takes to be edible, then that's what I'll do side of things, even if there's some nutrition loss.

Which, btw, I tried a variation on the acorn meat patty recipe in this thread. I used bread crumbs instead of rice. Unfortunately, it didn't work because my acorns were still so bitter. The oil and garlic seemed to highlight the bitterness.
 
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I tasted my acorns from cork oaks ( white oak ). They do not taste bitter at all. Can I use those without leaching or soaking in water?
 
Simon Allins
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Answer to myself:NO
That would have been to good to be true. I just tried to cook with them.
Peeling,cooking for 15min, change cooking water, repeat 4 times, still bitter.
Tried another one raw. Also bitter.
I think the first one I tried raw that didn't taste bitter was an exception.
Sorry for asking stupid questions...

 
Alicia Bayer
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Sorry people are having issues with bitterness.  As mentioned, do be sure that you always drain your acorns from boiling water to boiling water, never to cold to heat up again since that will lock in the tannins. 

I would either resign myself to more boilings (nice if you need an excuse to heat up the house or add some humidity) or switch to longer term cold water leaching in the fridge.  Be sure to coarsely chop the acorns first with that method, and pour off the water twice a day being careful not to pour off the wonderful starch that will settle on top.  It will take longer but it's quite an easy method and will ultimately result in mild acorns.  (See pic below) 

For whole acorns that have already been processed, you might want to roast them and grind them, and then use them in recipes for just a part of the flour.  Roasting deepens the acorn flavor but not the bitterness, and when combined with other flour the bitterness should be largely masked and still let the acorn flavor shine through.  Avoid using spices like cinnamon if you bake with acorns that have any bitterness, as cinnamon also contains tannins and will exacerbate them.  If you roast your acorns at 350 until dried and browned, you can make them into flour in a flour mill or a coffee grinder.  Add your acorn flour in exchange for 1/3 of the flour in a bread or muffin recipe and see if it shines that way.

Also, if anybody is interested a newspaper reporter wrote up a very detailed write-up of one of my recent acorn presentations at a library last month: The Nutty and Nutritious Benefits of Cooking with Acorns  She includes my recipe for racahout (an ancient sweet hot drink that inspired modern hot cocoa) from my book, along with a summary of hot water and cold water leaching.  I brought three different acorn treats to that presentation -- rustic acorn crackers, racahout (which we made right there) and acorn spice cakes with cream cheese frosting.  All of them were a hit and it was a fun day. 

acorncoldwater.jpg
[Thumbnail for acorncoldwater.jpg]
 
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