Acorn Panacea


Primitive at work processing acorns

acorn, JP

The streets are full of acorn powder, the gutters full of unbroken acorns. Every four or five years it's like this, and I always tell myself that I have to learn to do what the Miwok did.


Modern primitive with drill-operated food mill

Thanks to Heather Crawford, and Mia from the Trackers, I’ve  cracked the mystery of the  nut that rains abundantly down from the local valley oaks, which are technically in the ‘white oak’ category.

They are (I came to learn) among the lowest in tannins.

First you gather (fun part, if you’re a natural hoarder).
Then you crack and peel (more fun than expected).

A few of simple moves: grab an acorn (so smooth it might jump out of your fingers) ,  balance the thing on its tip, and tap the rounded end with a hammer.
At first I was working with a normal v-shaped nutcracker, and it took a minute or so per nut. Then CC (the primitive in the above shots) decided to join me for a smash-a-thon.

I went for a second hammer, after watching him tap six or seven, then peel them, assembly-line fashion.

The most recent batch are unblemished–no worm-veins or mold. Not that a few worms would stop me.

The bowls filled up.

We kept popping the nuts.

It’s kind of hard to stop!” CC grins.

With a couple of grocery sacks full of good dry acorns, and a paltry couple of mixing bowls (small) filled, it’s obvious that we will need about ten or twenty hours to get it all ground up in the old fashioned grain mill.  CC mollified the hand-cranked apparatus to take a drill bit, while I pounded the nuts into the hopper And then: where to store our damp acorn meal?

The mash has  the most delicate wood-and-nutty aroma, nothing at all like other nuts we know.

Then you leach out the tannins: Soak in a bowl draped in linen or cheeseclothx3, strain, repeat with fresh water. Use the brownish water in the garden. In a couple days the mash will not taste at all bitter.

Since  I’d already done a batch of nuts in my crummy blender four days ago, I had coarse, but still quite fine to eat, nutmeat to play with the last few days. Here are the pancakes I made:

1/3 cup wheat flour (or potato flour if you’re gluten intolerant) ,

2/3 cup acorn mush,

an egg

a cup of ‘bad’ milk (or good)

3 pinch salt

1/2 TB  baking poudre

Hot iron skillet…medium flame, good spatual..

They were pure heaven.

So satisfying that even Mr. Eats-Every-Two-Hours was able to go four hours until his next gluten-free meal.
I may try to live a few weeks without wheat some day, but I’m not ready (nor have I any digestive problems) to live a breadless existence. I think I’d need to move to Japan, where rice-based cuisine is the norm.
But maybe there can be an acorn-based diet around here (again).
Nutrient-dense…and maybe even a future local industry for bored teenagers. Estimated cost of a pound of the meal: $110.00 given the four wombat-hours it took to fabricate.

From free ingredients (well, mostly).
It’s enough to make you persuade you that the cosmos bestows precisely what creatures need…

All we know is, we love those trees even more…



~ by jacquiephelan on November 6, 2009.

13 Responses to “Acorn Panacea”

  1. How long did it take Bushpig to call with an offer for C.A.T. Grain Mill #1? 😉

  2. Use the water to wash with as well, the tannins help clean you.
    This water’s also prolly helpful against Poison Oak, having many of the same tannins which come out of the leaves, which I’ve boiled to use.

  3. I remember making pancakes from acorns back in grade school after we read The Other Side Of The Mountain. Crikkey I’m suprised I can remember anything from grade school now that I am “over the hill”

  4. i used to see lots of acorns in st. louis, not too many here in tx. the pancake recipe sounds delicious!

    peace 🙂

    • Chandra/greencommotion: Please look at recipe again. It seems I forgot the wet ingredients….ulp. Even if the acorn mush is damp, you really gotta have some liquid like egg, milk, yog, sour cream, even tea or potato water!

  5. Better to use them in pancakes rather than having them shooting out from underneath my wheel. They always seem to be whacking some poor innocent on the bike path.

  6. I’d love to try this someday.

  7. no gluten, you say. but the recipe you use calls for wheat flour? je suis confuse.

  8. Jacquie– our son was diagnosed with Celiac disease about four years ago (the culmination of a brief, but terrifying period wondering what the hell was wrong with our child), and, being a genetic disease, we discovered that my wife was also Celiac. Even though I don’t have Celiac disease, we made the whole house a gluten-free zone.

    I’ve been eating gluten-free breads for so long that breads made with wheat flour taste funny and “flat” to me. Rice is not the only grain suitable for breads. Nor is wheat. Indeed, you’re living in a lo-fi world of taste if you stick to wheat breads. You’re missing out on the wonderful tastes created when flax, teff, brown rice, millet, and quinoa collaborate. I’d suggest you seek out Bob’s Red Mill flours.

    Buon appetito!

  9. Dear flapjacquie,

    as one that is always interested in a new pancake plan I was impressed with the amount of wombathours put into this.

    I have a huge abundance of chestnuts, I wonder what they would be like?



    -thought the details about leaching tannins might be interesting.

  11. i made some pancakes. i used gluten free pancake mix (and less baking poudre because the mix has some in it) for the flour because that’s what i had. they came out really yummy! best gluten free pancakes i ever had since i went gluten free. i also had some hot acorn mush for breakfast and enjoyed it very much! i am a little concerned though that i may be turning into a squirrel or possibly a chipmunk, i am getting fuzzier by the minute!

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