Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Acorn Pancakes

Acorns are a great wild (or cultivated) food! Oaks aren't common on Bowen, but they do grow in abundance elsewhere in BC, and we have a few, here. What the squirrels don't pillage is ours for the taking. Since acorns aren't a very popular wild food, there is often an abundance just lying on the ground waiting to be gathered, even in the city.

Acorns have been consumed in many countries for millenia. They have a surprising scent that is at once perfumey-sweet and nutty. Acorn coffee was a popular war-time drink in some European countries, and acorn pulp has been used for baking all over the oak-growing world, including in pre-contact North America. It is similar to using almond meal or flour, and has many beneficial nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamin B6, copper and manganese. (http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3083/1)

Harvesting, Peeling and Leaching Acorns:
When they fall off the tree, they're ripe.

Gather as many as you can carry, but check for worm holes and rot, as you do.

Once home, soak them for a day or two to soften the shells; then peel them. We find the easiest way to do this is to slice the stem-end with a sharp knife, pry the acorn in half, and then pick out the meat with a dull knife.

Once they're all shelled, they need to be leached of their tannins. This can be done either with hot or cold water. In any scenario, the aim is to soak the tannins out of the acorns, replacing the water every time it darkens with the tannins. The boiling method takes about 6-12 hours, depending on the size, species, and amount of acorns. Cold-water leaching can take weeks.

I didn't want to boil the nutritional benefits out of the acorns, nor did we want to spend weeks leaching, so we chose a moderate "warm" method. Every day I changed the water once or twice, each time replacing it with warm water. It took 13 days before the water was no longer darkening, and we moved on to the next step:

Grinding the Acorns:
Various traditional methods exist for doing this, many with a mortar-and-pestle-like arrangement, and most with long hours of manual labour. I think if the acorns were boiled they would be easier to grind, but since we didn't do that, we invented the blender-method! Simply drop the acorns into a blender with enough water to make a pulp and facilitate blending, and go! It worked beautifully.

Savoury Acorn Pancakes:
Once you have a nice, smooth acorn pulp, the pancakes are easy. Since we're not using eggs, and I wanted them to stick together, I added some tapioca flour. However, if you can eat eggs, I suspect they might be a lovely addition to this recipe.

  • 2 cups acorn pulp
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • milk -- enough to thin to pancake consistency
Mix all ingredients thoroughly until your batter is the way you like it. Cook on a hot, oiled skillet as you would a regular pancake. The first side will be done when the top appears dry. Flip to cook the second side, and then remove to a plate in the oven. Because these have no eggs, they tend to break while flipping, so it's advisable to keep the size down to something your spatula can handle!

We enjoyed these pancakes for breakfast with homemade quince jam, and then for dinner as a side with a spicy Indian curry.


Following the doctor's suggestion, we've reduced our diet to almost entirely whole grains (we still eat whole-grain pasta once or twice a week, and have the odd cookie, cake or muffin), and we're slowly beginning to introduce previously forbidden grains.

First up: oats.

We had whole oats with our whole-rice porridge a few times, and, seeing that nothing untoward happened, we tried rolled oats. No problems! We've now been having oat porridge or muesli a few times/week. The kids are happy, and I am looking forward to oatmeal cookies, again!

If this progress continues as positively as it has begun, I hope to eventually be able to walk into a store and simply buy a loaf of Squirrely Bread! Oh. But maybe it contains eggs. Well anyway... you get the idea.