Thursday, October 18, 2012
Sometimes when you're out prowling the woods for something to eat you can spend so much time looking that you tend to overlook the food that's right under your feet.
Stanley and I knew every patch of oak trees within walking distance of Schulter and quite a few that weren't. Groves of oak tress are the best places to hunt squirrels and they are the best places to find den trees for coon and possum. Needless to say we tromped around on acorns just about every time we went to the woods.
I'm not sure where the idea came from but for some reason we thought acorns were poison to people. I don't know why because we knew that squirrels, rabbits and deer ate them and normally we were willing to at least take a bite of any plant those three ate just to see if it tasted good. Anyway, it wasn't until I was about 15 that I decided to test that theory. Mr. Ritter had explained to me that the way to test woods food was to take a small piece and see if it was really bitter or made you mouth feel numb or anything. If it didn't then take a small bite and wait a few hours to see if there was and effect. Believe me, there were some that definitely had an effect!
I finally started trying a few acorns just to see what they'd and no that wasn't very smart but most things I did back then would fit that description. I found out after a few trials that you can eat the acorns for the White Oak tree just like you would any other nut. They taste kind of like a hickory nut. I tried some of the others we have growing down home and found that red, black and post oak all make you tongue and lips feel a little numb. Black Oak even made me a little sick to my stomach but since I had taken such a small bite it wasn't too bad.
Anyway, on to the recipes. The first time I tried this I just cut up the acorns and added them to cold water then put the water on the fire to boil it and see if I could get the bitterness out. Need to add one thing here. Getting the nuts out of the shells can be a real pain in the you know what. Acorn shells are soft, not hard like pecans or walnuts so they are really hard to crack. I started out just smashing them with a rock, that works but it's messy, I ended up splitting them with my pocket knife. Since those days I have heard of other ways including using a garlic press and I'm sure there are others that are a lot easier. Also, make sure you don't waste your time gathering any acorns with small holes in them unless you want to try some oak worms to add a little extra protein. You might need to boil the acorns mutable times to get all the tannin out. Just keep dumping the water out and adding more until the water is clear. After the water is clear you can drain them and set aside to let dry. They don't need to get completely dry, just enough to cut without sticking to the knife blade. Chop them into pieces, you can skip this step but it seems to me like the next step works better if they are chopped. Next you mash them into a paste. I used a mortar and pestle for this. Next spread them in a thin layer on a pan and let them dry. You could spread them on a piece of hide and let them dry in the sun, or a flat rock and dry them over a slow fire. I cheated and used a cookie sheet and the oven set at the lowest tempiture. However you want to do it TAKE YOUR TIME! You can't hurry this step, they have to be perfectly dry.
Another way you can fix them is by cold water leaching. Chop them up after shelling and put them in a bowl filled with water. Set this in the frig for a day. The water should turn a tan color. Keep replacing the water until it is clear then process the acorns the same as the first method.
Once you have them dry you can use a flour sifter to removed any larger pieces. You can store the flour the same as any other as long as you're sure it is DRY. I found out the hard way that if you don't get it dry you're not going to be able to store it for more than a few days without it becoming moldy so not matter how you dry it, open fire, oven or dehydrator make sure you finish the job.
I've only used acorn flour for making bread but I have heard of honey cakes and even a pizza crust being made. What ever you want to try keep in mind that acorn flour won't rise like regular flour, or at least I never could get it to so I mainly just made soda bread. Since I don't live in an area where we have oak trees I haven't been able to try it for anything else.