Friday, February 24, 2012

More on acorn processing

About a year and a half ago I wrote a couple posts on acorn processing.  On  I wrote about four different ways to process acorns for eating.  I also have written about using the processing water, which is full of tannins for medicinal uses. I haven't tried all four ways and in fact was taught a fifth way which I will never try again.  It worked but what a mess.  The fifth way is to put your acorn mush into a bag in your toilet tank...not the bowl, the tank!  Every time you flush the water gets rinsed away and new water replaced.  This will eventually leach out the tannins.  The problem with this is that while the acorns are being leached they turn everything a slimy brown, including the inside of the tank.  It's been years since I did this experiment and the tank is still brown.  It dyed the bowl for quite a while too. Not something I'm going to replicate.  I wonder if the person who told me this was laughing inside about how they got a gullible person to think this was a good idea. 

Today I was up the hill and stopped in at GI Jim's Military Surplus and Supply in Prather.  Nice store.  He can get almost anything you need and he's got lots of advice to share.  Also, when customers come in they will share their stories.  Jim said that he told some folks where they can get whole grain wheat. I told Jim that I get mine from one of the local feed stores.  It's recleaned wheat that is pretty clean.  No rocks just chaff.  It's about 25 cents a pound buying it in the 50 pound sack. Jim was saying that someone he knows has 4 55-gallon barrels filled with wheat.  I have mine in buckets but barrels is an interesting idea.  It sure would save on space and I could keep it in the garage rather than in the home-store room.

On the back shelf in the store Jim has printed up some fliers for folks to take free of charge.   One of the fliers was on acorn processing.  Other than the toilet trick the only acorn processing I've done is by grinding them then leaching them.  Jim's way uses one of the other ways I mentioned.  Boiling.  I'm going to retype Jim's flier:
Acorns are a food of abundance in the foothills of the California mountains.  One of the problems is the slow process to remove the tannic acid which makes them bitter.  G.I. JIM has perfected a way to do this a lot quicker.  Her are the steps to doing so.
1. Take your acorns and put them in a pot to boil, shell and all.
2.  After about 15 minutes at boil, don a leather glove and a carpet knife (razor knife) and slice the shell off the meat. (the glove is to keep you from cutting your acorn holding hand...Be careful!!)
3. Empty the pot, saving the original water and refill the pot with fresh.
4. Boil the meat of the acorns again until the water turns brown.  Again drain the water off saving it in the same bucket as the first boil.
5. Continue the process of boiling and refreshing, until the water boils clear.
6. You now have an edible acorn.
7. These may be ground into flour, I use a coffee grinder.  Grind them up and allow the flour to dry out.
8. One of my favorite recipes is acorn pancakes, using 70% acorn flour, 30% Bisquick with just a touch of baking powder thrown in.  I used to serve my children "brown" pancakes with a little vanilla and cinnamon thrown in.  They never knew they were experimented on! They can also be used for bread and biscuits with normal recipes.
9. Saving the water has an ulterior purpose.  The water, although it will darken your skin, is a natural insect repellent.  It also can be used as one of the components for tanning hides. 
With the abundance of acorns, there is no reason anyone should go hungry if the food system collapses.

Now for me to throw in a few of my comments:

I think this way is a great idea as long as you have a good way to heat up water.  If you have the ability to cook for any length of time then I'd definitely choose this way to process the acorns.  If gas/propane/electricity/wood was in short supply then I'd go back to the more labor intensive method of pouring water over and over and over to leach the tannins. 

Prior to the settlers coming to California there were about 300,000 Native Americans in the entire state.  This was a huge population density compared to other native tribes throughout the country but there were years when they went hungry, which was one of the reasons they turned to an acorn diet.  It is very labor intensive to process but was a stable food source since the acorns would keep in their granaries for a couple of years.  They could load the granaries in good years and have food on hand during bad acorn seasons.  But again, the entire population was 300,000.  Our fair state has 100x that many people.  Unless you have oaks on your property you will be fighting for that resource with others just as you will be fighting for wild game.  But those who live in the oak woodlands will definitely be at an advantage over the city folks.

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