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The Acorn Bread Experiment

Posted on 04 April 2016   native plants, nut trees, wild edibles

The Acorn Bread Experiment

     I’ve always enjoyed wild edibles and I recently decided to finally do something I’ve been wanted to do for awhile – bake acorn bread. This little blog post chronicles my experience doing it and the mistakes I made along the way…

Acorns, as everyone knows, fall in the fall and and are important food source throughout the winter months for wildlife. Acorns were a food source for Native Americans and early European settlers in North America. How hard could it be to make acorn bread? Much harder than I thought…

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     My son and I harvested acorns from a suburban neighborhood over winter (we have to find something to do in the city when we’re visiting family!) and we were careful to only select the hole-less, dense acorns.

As many of you know, we are extremely busy over the winter months, digging and shipping fruit trees to customers across the country. Because of that, I didn’t get to the acorns until the end of March. That was my first mistake.

I left the acorns at room temperature for months, so only a fraction of the nuts were still good. Next time, we will freeze them until things calm down enough to process them. Some of the acorns had molded and in some nuts grubs had hatched and crawled out of the nut meat.

We cracked every acorn that didn’t have a hole using this ingenious (not really, but it worked) method:

I sorted out the bad acorns from the good ones:

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(we threw the bad nuts into the woods…for wildlife that may not be as picky as we are!)

Next, I boiled the nut meat. Acorns are much higher in tannins than other nuts, which means they have a naturally bitter flavor. Native American used to submerge acorn nut meat in a clear flowing stream for several days to remove the bitterness. For the sake of speed, I opted to boil the shelled nuts. I added enough water that all the shelled nuts were completely covered and could float or sink in the water.

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That’s where I made my second mistake. I got busy and didn’t have a chance to boil them adequately. Acorn nut meats need to be boiled in new water about every ten minutes, until the water stays clear and not colored. I think I needed to boil these acorns in at least 2 more changes of water.

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After my inadequate boiling, I ran cool water over the acorns in the colander and then dried them with a towel. Then I used a food processor to grind the nut meats into meal. I’ve seen this described as flour in various places on the internet, but short of some industrial supplies and grinders, most people have the ability to make meal and not our modern powder-consistency flour.

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I ran more water through the meal in a colander, and then I followed this recipe to make acorn bread (with added wheat flour):

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http://www.food.com/recipe/acorn-bread-71702

After 30 minutes in the oven, it made a nice loaf…

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I cut a warm piece of bread….

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Took a bite….

And it was terrible. Strange-flavored bitterness filled my mouth. Not just bitter…something even worse. And that’s when I knew I had made some mistakes.

Our forbearers most likely survived hungry winters using acorn meal. My process was wrong (bad keeping of the acorns and inadequate boiling), so I know what to do next year. And maybe, if you try this, you can avoid the same mistakes I did and avoid an acorn bread fail.

Happy growing and eating! :)

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