“When an oak-tree is felled the whole forest echoes with it; but a hundred acorns are planted silently by some unnoticed breeze.”
-Thomas Carlisle, 1795-1881
The smell of boiling acorns is entirely unexpected. From the bubbling pot, tendrils of steam curl up, bearing the familiar oakey scents of brown sugar and vanilla that are found in some wines, compliments of the cask they were aged in. Together, absurdly, the boiling mixture smells like creme brulee.
The resulting flour also tastes sweeter than we anticipated, with a subtle nutty flavor. It is very rich in protein, so a little goes a long way. We began mixing some in with our oatcakes, and have been very happy with the result.
We had expected this post to be a grueling sort of undertaking, and were pleasantly surprised to find how straightforward it is. It is a nice project to have going on the side while you prepare the real meal of the day. We boiled and strained ours three times just to be sure we got rid of the bitter tannins, but two times probably would have been sufficient.
So, with relatively little work, acorn flour is a definite win in our book!
How to make Acorn Flour
This looks complicated, but is actually relatively easy.
What you’ll need:
- Something to bust them open with
- a pot or other means of boiling the acorn meat
- cheesecloth, old t shirt, or dishtowel for straining
As with other nuts, you’ll need to remove the shell of the acorns to get at the meat. There are different ways to do this: Nutcracker, pounding it with a hammer and removing the nut meat, or cutting them open. We are lucky enough to have a giant mortar and pestle for making guacamole, and that worked brilliantly. Just a couple of hard whacks per acorn splits the shell sufficiently. Fish out the meat and discard the shells.
Once all the meat is collected, pick over it to make sure that none of the pieces are black, molded, or otherwise dodgy looking. The next step is to grind down the acorn meat. This was traditionally done with two stones that worked like the mortar and pestle described above. However, since we live in a modern age, and love our modern conveniences, we opted to use them in favor of being able to do anything else all day. We threw our shelled acorns into the blender and worked the buttons until the consistency was as fine as it seemed it would get. If you try using a blender, you might pour a little water in with the grounds to help keep them moving.
Because of the tannic acid in acorns, they have to be boiled to remove the very bitter taste. While some acorn fans report that acorns from white oaks don’t need boiling, we recommend at least one round of boiling just to be on the safe side. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour the acorn meal in it. Keep at a boil, stirring the pot once in a while to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom.
Once the mixture has boiled for about 5 minutes, the water should be a murky sort of color. You will want to prep your draining system in the sink. We draped an old t shirt over our collander, and poured the liquid into that, making sure that we didn’t pour too much in all at once. Rinse with some cold water to help cool the ground acorns down before picking up the cloth and squeezing the water out.
After each boiling, you’ll want to tasted a piece to see how it’s coming along. Grab a larger chunk rather than a smaller one- don’t be shy! If there is no trace of bitterness, you can move on. If it still tastes bitter, back into the pot! Keep boiling and straining until all the bitterness is gone.
When you are done, you will be left with a mushy ball of acorn paste. You can use it right away or dry it out for storing. We nibbled a bit of ours, then spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet and put in outside in the sun. You can also slowly roast it in the oven at a very low temperature, but we liked adding the sunshine into the mix.
Voila! You have acorn flour! You can choose to grind it down further in a food processor, or leave it as is. Consider adding some as a flour replacement to bread, pancakes, or other baked goods. Or, make a paste of it and serve with squirrel and pickles…