Featured Ingredient: Acorns
To me, there is something romantic about the idea of tramping into the forest and coming out with the victuals for a good salad. Foraging is an activity I would really like to participate in with more energy. Especially after reading the delicious book Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer, one of the foremost foragers in America. He thoroughly outlines a wide range of wild edibles that can be eaten. It seems there are no shortage of healthy consumables in our forests and backyards. One of his favorite items are acorns and with plenty of acorn trees in our neighbourhood, I decided this nut would be one of my first forays into gathering food from Mother Nature’s bounty.
Yes, you can eat acorns and they don't have to be just for squirrels. According to USDA data, acorns are rich in several nutrients including magnesium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. The main deterrent is that acorns are really high in tannins that make them very, very bitter and unpalatable raw. So they need to be leached of the tannins before they can be consumed. So here is how I turned a bunch of foraged acorns into a muffin tin creation.
First, I broke a bunch of ripe acorns open with a mallet and then separated the meat from the shell. Seasoned foragers have much quicker methods than this newbie.
I then ground the nut meat in my Vita-mix with some water. It was about 11 ounces of meat and 2/3 cup water.
To leach out the tannins, I used the cold leaching method which involves placing some of the ground acorn in a jar and filling it with water. The water should be changed a couple times a day and it can take a couple weeks before the acorns no longer taste bitter. I have to be honest that I got lazy about changing the water so it took longer before my acorns were ready for cooking.
The acorn flour then needs to be dried. I did this on a sunny windowsill. To hasten this, I placed the flour in the oven after turning it off once I was done cooking something else.
With this flour, I then made the muffins below. How is that for a satisfying muffin! These are very earthy and worthy of even the pickiest hippie eater.
Acorn Molasses Muffins
1 cup acorn flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
1/3 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine acorn flour, wheat flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in applesauce, oil, sugar, and molasses. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until everything is moist. Fold in walnuts. Divide among 11 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.