Get to know Acorn Flour
When I read William R. Forstchen’s book about surviving an EMP, One Second After, I was very frustrated. The folks in the book who were struggling to survive, and have enough to eat, were ignoring abundance all around them!
Acorns. The woods of that area of NC, and mine here in SC, are usually half oak. And acorns are edible, with a little bit of work.
Nutrition: From a nutrition label (yes, you can buy acorn flour online: http://buyacornflour.com/). One ounce of acorn flour is 142 calories, with 74 of those calories coming from fat (9 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat) no cholesterol, no sodium, 15 Grams carbohydrate, no fiber, 2 grams of protein.
Types of Oaks: Near me in SC we have White Oak, Red Oak, Live Oaks. Where I used to live in coastal NY it was all Pin Oak. Out west you have Tan Oak, Black Oak, California Live Oak, and Valley Oak. So many kinds! And they really, really vary in many ways. Some have big acorns, other small ones. The amount of tannins in the varieties varies, wildly, and that’s important.Tannins need leached out of acorns to make them edible.
—quote “According to Thayer (who has eaten virtually every species of acorn on earth), acorns’ tannin content ranges broadly by oak species: from the Red Oak species Q. agrifolia with a tannin content as high as 20.3% (Koenig and Heck, 1988) to the White Oak species Q. ilex with a tannin content of 0.4% (Mazueles Vela et al., 1967). This fact makes providing precise instructions for how long to leach acorns before eating them difficult: the answer depends on the type of acorn as well as a person’s personal flavor preferences.” – source https://www.tyrantfarms.com/diy-how-to-make-acorn-flour-acorn-recipes/
Harvest: Acorns are gathered in the fall after they are ripe, Early in the season you will occasionally find acorns without their “little hats” lying on the ground. These are usually buggy. (If the acorn is so heavy that it pulls itself from its cap, it is usually because there is a worm flipping itself about inside the acorn, and all this activity is what breaks the nut free from its cap and the tree.) When the acorns are actually ripe, they fall from the tree, cap intact. If you see any holes in them, throw them away.
There seems vast disagreement on how to process them. But first, a humorous personal anecdote! The first time I ate an acorn I was maybe 10 years old, and we were burning leaves, pin oak leaves. The acorns in the fire burst from the steam. Their shells were like shrapnel but the toasted nuts (these were low-tannin) were delicious, if you could find them. We started putting handfuls of acorns in the fire intentionally and ate our fill.
Processing: One school suggested that you let the nuts dry (maybe near a woodstove) and then grind them, then leach out the tannins and redry. Another suggested you put them in a food processor after cutting them in half, right after picking, leach the slurry, and then cook and dry it. I would lean toward the second for at least part of a batch because if they are somewhat buggy it would be best to know now, rather than later Either way, you just run water over the flour (in a cloth that will never be white again) until it it no longer bitter. And how much water that takes depends on how high the tannin content is, and your personal taste.
Storage: It’s perishable. If you are in a survival situation drying the nuts will probably work best.
I'd also like to recommend the book "Nature's Garden" by Samuel Thayer who was referenced in one of the quotes above. He has 50 pages extensively covering the harvesting and processing of acorns, including tips on how to tell if an acorn is already infested with grubs so you can reduce the number of them you waste time collecting to begin with.
Last year I noticed it was a mast year for acorns in my area so I harvest a 5 gallon bucket worth which I then processed down to about 14 lbs of acorn meal. It was a fair amount of work, but I'm glad I did it. I know have a tangible understanding of what it takes, and have gathered some of the tools that can make it easier.
My biggest problem at this point is figuring out ways to use them as I'm not accustomed to cooking with acorns. I have zero history with it. Do any of you have good recipe ideas for using acorns?
One that I have found to be pretty good is adapting a "Better Burgers" recipe found in Joel Fuhrman's book "Super Immunity". It's basically a meatless burger using lots of mushrooms, oats, and walnuts. I replace all or part of the walnuts with acorns. Though I will admit I prefer the flavor of the burgers better using the walnuts than the acorns. Looking around on-line this site seems to have the basic recipe if anyone else is interested, though this version involves using some meat as an option (which would likely make a tasty burger too). http://www.foodus.com/kelly-michael-dr-joel-fuhrman-better-burgers-recipe/2/
First of all, squirrels use their nose to determine if there is an acorn weevil grub in the acorn. They preferentially seek out the grub infested acorns because of their superior nutrition. Squirrels who don’t get enough grub in their acorns are malnouished.
I suggest you eat the grubs. They have a nice texture, taste like an acorn, but milder and are nutritious for humans too. If you dry with a bit of heat, it kills the grub and gives it a nice texture. Probably best to remove the grubs before grinding and eat them right a way or store them separately.
I’ve made cornbread substituting acorn meal for 1/2 or all of the cornmeal. The 50/50 mix is reasonably like cornbread. The 100% acorn mix makes dense, slightly chewy, nutty flavored bread. I like it.
I had never heard that about grubs/weevils and their nutrition content regarding the health of squirrels. It does make some sense though. For myself though, while I do realize they do pack a certain amount of nutrition, grubs are one of the things I have the strongest "ick" factor response to. So I'm not likely to take to eating them unless I really had to.
Thanks for the suggestion of using it cornbread. It has been quite a while since I've made any cornbread. That sounds like something interesting to try.