Humans have been consuming acorns for thousands of years and for good reason! According to UC Riverside Professor David Bainbridge: “acorns can range in fat content from 1.1 percent to 31.3 percent, protein from 2.3 percent to 8.6 percent, and carbohydrates from 32.7 percent to 89.7 percent, depending on species”—making them mighty nutritious!
I know what you’re thinking; acorns are poisonous, they taste bitter, not worth the effort, etc.. None of this is true if cooked properly. And unless your idea of a healthy dinner is tearing open a hot pocket and nuking it, then we have conflicting opinions of nutrition (Oh, and don’t nuke plastic).
Back to the topic at hand, now that we have all these bloody acorns what do we do with them? The procedure below will result in pieces of beautiful acorn meat to be added to stews, salads, stuffings, thrown in a trail mix, etc. (If you intend to bake with them by making acorn flour, then you should look up the cold-water leaching method. Here’s one interesting approach: toilet tank leaching! [Scroll down a bit to get to the cold-water method])
You want to throw out the ones with tiny holes, because those contain the larva of an oak weevil. Or, maybe you could eat them … more protein I suppose.
Next, separate out the white acorns from the reds (the previous blog tells how to ID them) and begin the shelling process. Whites are easier to peel than reds. The easiest way is to set the capless acorn top-side down and break out the hammer. One or two taps will free the acorn meat from the shell. Toss all the meats into a bowl and prepare two stockpots with boiling water. The acorns need to be boiled to leach out the tannins. White acorns have less tannin and require fewer changes of water. Two pots are required because if you throw hot meats into cold water it may bind the tannins in the acorn, resulting in (you guessed it) a bitter taste. Change the water until it runs clear; 2 or 3 times for whites and 4-5-6 times for reds.
I’ve read that you can keep the tannin-rich water to be used for a laundry detergent. Tannic water is also an antiviral and antiseptic—great for burns and rashes—or if you have kids or spouses constantly getting into poison ivy, you can freeze the water in ice-cube trays and wait for the inevitable. (By the way, using tannic water on hides is where the term for leather “tanning” comes from… huh!)
Last comes the drying process. (If you don’t dry your acorns, they could potentially rot.) A towel works for larger pieces, or you can lay them out in the sun to dry, or roast them in the oven at 300° for 20-30 minutes, which brings out their natural sugars!
Germans make an acorn coffee as well; maybe we’ll talk Crystal Bridges’ Director of Culinary Services Case Dighero into concocting an Arkansas specialty brew!
Learn more about what’s growing at Crystal Bridges by dropping-in on a Fall Forage Tour! They are taking place at 11:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through November 30.