Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
The oak is a mystical, wise and majestic soul. The mighty acorn is the subject of fables, myths and sayings of wisdom. "An acorn holds the promise of a thousand forests". But when it comes to harvesting and eating the fruits of the oak tree there is taboo and a belief that they're toxic and only good for squirrels and swine.
Far from the case, for our stone age ancestors, acorns were the main staple starch food, supplementing hunted meat and foraged berries. Oaks grew abundantly from China, through the far East, Russia, Europe and North America down to Mexico.
This week end I had the chance to rekindle my inner acorn knowledge and reconnect with what my ancient hunter gatherer fore-bearers spent a good deal of their time engaged in the business of processing, cooking and eating acorns. A day in an enchanted forest in Sussex our guide Anna Richardson of Native Hands showed us how to process and cook the fruits of the oak tree.
The rock hard kernels need to be broken & ground down to flour.
The first task in processing acorns is to turn the acorns into flour. Once the acorn is opened, you must break the kernel down. This is best done with a stone grinder (stone age mortar and pestle, family please note Christmas present ideas). Then to grind broken kernels down into flour. We used a maize grinder, though a coffee mill will suffice.
Once ground, it must be leached of bitter tannins.
Next step is to leach out the bitter tannins. Tannin is water soluble so simply many changes of water over 3 or 4 days, until the water is less dark brown will suffice. Then your acorn meal is ready to cook with or to dry out and store.
Acorns have a wonderful buttery & earthy flavour. Anyone who has eaten the Iberico ham from acorn fed pigs will know the wonderful oily flavour of the celebrated charcuterie. This, until recently was my way of indirectly imbibing upon acorns, through the beasts who had consumed them.
The day's highlight was the acorn bread baked in a dutch oven. It was a gastronomic top 5 moment, when as the glowing embers were brushed off the cast iron pot, out emerged a triumphant steaming crusty, dark loaf of ancient wheat & acorness. The best tasting loaf I have ever eaten.
The acorn bread was a blend of kamut flour & acorn flour (3parts kamut/1part acorn) kneaded with yeast, salt and water in the usual way and given a day long proving, knocked back twice then baked in a dutch oven.
The lovely Anna Richardson beaming with pride at her bread.
Acorn, Hawthorn Berry & Sloe Pudding (authentic stone age special)Fred Flintstone Burgers
Fry some onions, add to acron flour, grated carrot, courgette & anything else you fancy
Form into burger shapes and shallow fry in oil
A memorable day in the woods. I can't wait till next autumn when acorn will be on my menu. Acorn canapes with roasted squirrel and haw jelly?
As a corny, but irresistible foot note I bought these shoes this week. Do they look like an acorn eaters shoes?