Eating Red Oak Acorns

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I ate my first acorn this summer - a white oak acorn in a public park. I cracked it, peeled it, and stuck it in my mouth. It tasted a lot like a sunflower seed. I was surprised at how pleasant it was. I swallowed it and that was that. Then I noticed a bitter taste in my mouth. It took a few minutes to get the taste to go away. Tannin is sneaky like that.
Red Oak Leaf from our Backyard
We have a large Northern red oak in our backyard. I ate one of the acorns today. It was sooooo bitter! I have always "known" that red acorns are more bitter than white, so my taste test wasn't all that surprising. 

Even still, it was time to see what we could do with the acorns in our yard. So we gathered up a bucket of red acorns to turn into flour.

We are fortunate to live near a large nature preserve filled with mature maples, oaks, and basswood trees. Most of the oaks are red, but a I have found a few white and burr oaks this summer.

In our own yard, we have 3 mature maples and 3 mature red oaks. Our biggest tree is over 100 years old and produces loads of acorns each fall. 
These acorns fall all over our mulch beds, the forest floor, and in our grass.

Each year, we pull out the acorns in the grass and toss them into the forest. Left in the grass, the tannin kills the grass and the shells make the ground lumpy.

So this year.... I put the "grass acorns" into a bucket and decided we would give them a try.

I did not take any extra. Squirrels, deer, mice, and turkeys eat these acorns and since we are not in an emergency scenario, I want to keep it that way.

I left them all the forest, tree, and mulch acorns.

Turkeys have been visiting daily to scratch at grubs and grab the acorns. They tear up the lawn to get the acorns (and grubs).
 The love to dig in the mulch. In the process, they keep burying my new blueberry bushes!
So I gathered up about a quarter of a 5 gallon bucket worth of acorns and tops.
I filled this with water from our rain barrel. Any that float are either immature, loaded with worms, or are bare caps.
We had quite a few floaters. Many acorns and of course caps. My kids threw a bug gall into the mix....
After taking out the floaters, I was left with acorns and what appeared to be "oily" water. It had that glisteny look to it that oil has when mixed with water. It could also be slug goo. Who knows.
I dumped the water out and put the acorns on newspaper lined trays to dry in our porch for a few days.

Acorns are supposed to yield flour in a 2-1 ratio. 2 gallons of nuts should produce 1 gallon of flour.

They take about 2 weeks to dry before you can crack them out of their shell. I cracked one open on day 1 and it was tight in the shell and hard to separate (this was the bitter acorn I mentioned eating at the beginning of this post.

Any green-ish acorns turned brown after about 1 week of drying.

We opened these bad boys up at exactly 2 weeks. We used the combination of a hammer and cutting board or two rocks.

And the results were surprising!

Scary actually!

More than half of our nuts were black inside. Mold or rot? Or something else?
If I process acorns again, I will dry them in full sun instead of inside my porch. I think they must have taken in too much water and then molded. Lessons learned, right?

Oh and the scary part....there were a lot of worms. Check these grossies out:

I only nabbed a few shots because these things were squirmy and gross.

Here's what the acorns looked like when things went right (read: no mold and no worms.)
We filled a small pyrex bowl with them (they all went into water right away to prevent browning.)
Next, they were ground into flour. I tried my best to do this all "off-grid" but none of my hand grinders could get past a very coarse grain. I needed this to get super fine so I could leach the tannin so I used my vitamix (I do own a mortar and pestle but didn't want it to get rancid from the acorn oil - in an emergency, I would go for it.)
These were blended up into a slurry. I started out pouring the goods into a jelly bag but the remaining water was so cloudy and I was sure it was holding all the fats. I did not want to lose the fat (since it would be important to have nutritionally in an emergency and probably helps with palatability.)

Here is the slurry.
Here it is after a few hours.
I poured the red tannin water off after 1 day. It was actually really hard to pour without losing the top fat layer! I ended up using a syringe to pull the top water layer off, then added more water for the next day's leaching.

I eventually transferred the flour and water to a larger pyrex bowl. This made pouring much easier. The leach water did turn a lighter pink then the original red but the flour retained the pink coloring.

At 4 days, I tasted the flour and it was nice and bland. Most advice is to wait a few days after you think it's ready to be sure the tannins are actually out.

I transferred the flour to a mason jar so I could use some of my filtering equipment once it was all ready. A few minutes after tasting the bland (but pink) flour, I noticed a bitter burning in the back of my throat. Obviously not ready.

I think my flour will remain pink. I did not remove the acorn skin (super impossible!) and it was a reddish brown color. The skin does contain a lot of tannin and I am hoping it leaches out but just leaves its "fiber" behind.

In the future, I might try to work harder to get the skin off. And of course, we will dry in the sun or in a dehydrator to prevent molding.

I plan to make pancakes and perhaps brownies with this flour. So far, it looks like we will have about 3/4 of a quart of flour (wet.) I did not use all the acorns we gathered - some were rotten or wormy, some we just tossed back into the forest. I was hoping to get about a cup of flour to make one batch of pancakes.

Even with all the work, damage, and fussiness of the acorns, they are turning out to be productive. Let's hope they taste okay!

As time went on, I started to get 2 distinct layers in the acorn flour. Everything online says you should get a "fat" layer on top. Well, I was getting a whitish layer on bottom, a pink layer on top, then the tannin filled water.
separating tannins from acorn flour

After 8 days, I decided to separate the acorn flour into different containers.

I put the pink stuff in one batch and the white in another. The pink is more mealy and keeps the water easily. I suspect it contains a lot of the acorn skin. I tasted it and it was bland, and mealy.

The white was sticky and hard to get out of the bottom of the bowl. I was using a spatula and it was not strong enough to get it out. I eventually used a metal spoon. The white component was bland tasting and creamy but like wet flour.
Could my fat portion be on the bottom? Was I wrong and I was only going to get this smidge of white flour and the pink was all skins?

After it all settled out, I wound up with 2 bowls of pink/white mix!
This is so frustrating! I am so glad we're not starving right now and needing this to work out!

To be continued....

We wound up with just under 1 cup of usable flour. I ended up using both the white and pink flours. Neither of them had a bitter taste, but I am going to experiment with a few more acorns to see if I can figure this whole thing out.

Maybe the pink flour was all the skin? Maybe the flour separated so much because I used too much water or ground them too fine?

Here is a look at the pancakes cooking:
acorn pancakes from red oak trees

And when they were being eaten:
acorn pancakes from red oak trees

acorn pancakes from red oak trees
I searched for a long time and found an acorn pancake recipe that used only easily foraged/grown ingredients. I bookmarked it...or so I thought. When the day came to use our flour, I couldn't find that recipe to save my life.

So I used my usual pancake recipe and substituted the wheat flour for acorn flour. Our batter was really runny and our pancakes were really thin.

In the future, I will dry the flour our for longer before using it and will use less milk so they are not so thin. 


They tasted great! They were a zillion times better than the buckwheat pancakes I made and to be honest, I like them way better than wheat pancakes. Everyone in the house agreed they were better than the buckwheat. But my daughter (who claims that pancakes are her favorite food) did not like them better than our usual wheat flour pancakes.

And so.........................................

I gathered up another load of acorns - this time from one of our other red oaks. This oak has almost identical leaves but dropped its acorns just last week. The acorns appear to be more reddish brown (as opposed to tannish brown) and are less fat and squatty. Or maybe they are the same?? 

Here's our second batch:
acorn pancakes from red oak trees
Just like last time, I only took the acorns that fell into the grass. This time I was smart enough not to grab any with caps still attached. I am hoping these have less grubs and mold! 

The plan for round 2 is to crack them open and let them soak whole in water for a few days. I will drain off any tannin that leaches out and will try to rub the red skin from the acorns when they are nice and soaked. Then I will roughly chop up the acorns into a coarse meal - not super fine like I did the first time. 

I will then proceed with the leaching. I will wait at least 10 days *from 9/27* (the same leaching that was done last time. I may even keep the nut meats in a jelly bag to make draining easier. Last time the flour was so fine the jelly bag oozed a lot of the nut particles out. 

Here are the separated nut meats.
These were far less wormy or moldy. We had maybe 10% that needed to be tossed as opposed to at least 50% the first time.

I shelled them right away instead of letting them dry. This meant I had to pry the meat out of the shell, and we got no "whole pieces" and it took a little extra time, but I think it was worth it. Also....I think "floating" the acorns to find duds may have added extra water that encouraged molding. 

Next time, I might try and dehydrate a batch in the oven or dehydrator, and then crack them open.

Either way, the testa (reddish skin) still stuck to the acorn meat. After a few days of soaking whole, the testa can rub off if I use my fingernails. Not a quick process! I have found that vigorously shaking the container tends to rip off some of the testa. I will be doing this every day before changing the water to remove as much as possible. Since we ate them last time, I am not stressing if they all stay on.

At day 4, I will be grinding these up - testa or no testa.

To be continued.....

Luxury bath body brush review #spon

If you want nice looking skin, then you should had a body brush to your skincare routine. I  have been using a natural boar's hair brush for a few years and have been very impressed with the improvement in lymphatic flow, skin texture (cellulite specifically) and dryness over the winter.

The brush I received for review is very similar to form to the brush I currently use. It has nice long handle and soft removable brush head. I like to take the handle off and hold the brush in my hands. It's just easier to manage my legs and arms with the brush in my hand.

This brush is much softer than the boar's bristle brush. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but it does give a nice soft experience and would make this a great washing brush.

I received a complimentary product for review purposes. No compensation was received and no affiliate links are found in this article

ReliaSeal 6 pack Silicone Lids Review

Saturday, October 3, 2015

We had the chance to review this set of Silicone Stretch Lids and I was really excited to give them a try. I am always using random plastic lids, bags, or silicone mats to cover my items in the hopes of reusing products and not wasting disposables.

These work great if you can find select the right size for the item you are using. Luckily, the set comes with 6 different sizes. I think the best uses are covering bowls (of leftovers or when you are letting bread rise), covering glasses/cups, and covering cut fruit. The cut fruit is the absolute best use and the one problem it does for me that nothing else could solve.

But it's not all happiness and rainbows. I had a few containers (especially flimsy ones) where they seal would not fit/work at all. Either it bent the container or just wouldn't fit properly (sizewise.) My husband hated them. He thought they were "one more thing" to have in the kitchen. But I still like them. I think they are great, they solve a big disposable problem, and they fit a variety of sized items without having to be exact. I would buy them again.

I received this set for free in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. No affiliate links are contained in this article and no compensation was received.

Rose Pruning Gloves Review

I grow roses....and raspberries....and gooseberries. All of these fantastic plants like to scratch me while  I work with them. I have been pruning them for years, sans gloves, and I have the scars to prove it. But that doesn't make any sense when you can wear a quality pair of gloves.

I had the chance to review this pair of leather gardening gloves and the whole task of pruning totally changed. They are very comfortable and cover almost all of my arms.

I found that they did not severely limit my dexterity or cause me to get overly hot. They did protect from thorns and I found them to be useful when working outside with animals caught in our traps. They prevented bites and made handling the animals much more relaxed.

They were soft and comfortable. I would definitely recommend them to others.

I received a pair of gloves for free in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. There are no affiliate links in this article and no compensation was received.

Grandpa Gus Rodent Trap - No Kill, Humane Review

I was super excited for the Grandpa Gus rodent trap to arrive at our doorstep. This trap is ingenious. Simple but ingenious. I was really worried when I first ordered it that it would cause the animal to suffocate if I didn't get there right away, but the doors have the slightest gaps to let in air. They are easy to bait (no snapping jaws!), easy to move, and easy to release the animal. You literally just tip them upside down and the doors swing open allowing the little guy to escape.

These really are great (and reusable) traps. I had only one complaint - these really aren't large enough to get a grey squirrel - not the urban ones we have anyway. These are great for red squirrels and all animals in the mice size range like voles, chipmunks, or meadow mice. But our grey squirrels can reach their body in and get to the bait without being trapped...or get stuck and die of stress or cutting themselves in the door. They are just too large. I wanted these traps for squirrels and this was disappointing.

If Grandpa Gus creates a larger (longer and taller) trap of the same design, I would buy it in a heart beat to catch squirrels. And a larger one still for rabbits. I would buy them both. This set of traps was sent to me for free in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

NHG Cheese Grater Review

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I am obsessed with all things food related. Because of that, I end up trying a bunch of food related products, and my cupboards are overflowing with gadgets. It's not always a good thing....

That's what I like about the NHG cheese grater I recently received for review. IT does the job of multiple devices. In fact, I was able to put 3 of my old graters in my goodwill box in exchange for this one!

This can be used to zest citrus, shave chocolate, shred cheese, shred veggies, grind nutmeg, and more. It can go in the dishwasher and it's sturdy on the counter when you need to use it.

The only thing you should take into consideration is the size. It's large. It does not fit in my standard utensil drawer and I store it standing upright in a cupboard. Keep that in mind if you want to get one of these.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free. None of the links in this article are affiliate links. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

What's on your Countertop?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I have come to realize, that my kitchen is always sporting a few projects. Always.  It can get a tad disorganized....

I have been asked to keep my "growing" projects out of the kitchen (so in the laundry room I am currently growing some greens and I'll soon be rooting some cacti...) but my kitchen counters currently have the following things happening....
Apple Walnut cake

  Homegrown popcorn in all it's "glory"   - Pollination issues?
Some of the popcorn shelled as seeds
leaching red oak acorn flour
Acorn flour being leached
minnesota midget canteloupe full size
The world's smallest fully ripe cantaloupe - grown by yours truly (much to my embarrassment)
Dehydrated Apple and Pear Chips
Asparagus seeds drying (along with many others.....)
Alfalfa sprouts soaking...these are technically not "plants growing" so I am still keeping them in the kitchen....
Green tomatoes that came in before the frost to ripen on the counter.
Shagbark hickory nuts drying out so they can be shelled.
dehydrating ground cherries
Ground cherries shriveling down into dehydrated tastiness.
Refrigerator projects include Aronia jam, wild grape syrup, Black Walnut cookies, pancakes made with Acorn flour , Wild plum jam, applesauce, and fresh pressed apple cider.
Fresh Raw Apple Cider
I still have nannyberries and hog peanuts waiting in my bag to be brought out to save their seeds. And the rest of the black walnuts in my fridge are going to be turned into Russian teacakes tomorrow.  Plus a zillion blog review items, math homework, kids projects and toys, forms from school, coupons to clip, and books I'm reading. I know it looks messy, but it also looks alive. Full of life. Full of activity. Full of adventure....
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