In the event that the world as we know it crumbles, the ability to forage for edible flora and fauna will be an important skill. While stockpiling necessary items will undoubtedly help you to survive if things go south, learning how to gather and prepare food is crucial if you’ve got a long-range outlook in mind. As fall approaches, you might consider learning how to make acorn flour.
You might have heard before that acorns are poisonous. That’s absolutely true of raw, unprocessed acorns, or acorns that have been improperly processed. They can make you sick due to the high level of tannins they contain. You’ve likely heard of tannins before; they are a compound found in many commonly consumed items, including wine and tea
There are a couple reasons why you should put processing acorns at the top of your “To Learn for Preparedness” list. First off, they’re actually quite good for you, so long as they’re prepared so that they aren’t actively bad for you. They have a high fat content, a little protein, and carbohydrates for instant energy.
Second, acorns are plentiful. A large oak tree is said to be able to produce up to 1,000 lbs. of acorns per year. Even when you cut out weight from shells and moisture, that’s a significant amount of consumable calories that can be processed for eating through the year.
Third, acorns are found pretty much everywhere. While some acorns are better than other for consumption, they’re all edible when processed. Wherever you may roam (assuming it’s late summer to early fall there), there’s likely an oak tree full of acorns you could beat the squirrels to.
Oak trees can be found all across the U.S, Europe, and the rest of the Northern hemisphere. There are some species found in Asia and Central America, as well. North American oaks are, more or less, split into two groups, red and white. You can tell the difference between red and white oaks because red oaks tend to have leaves with pointed tips, while white oaks have rounded leaves. Check the following link to learn how to properly identify and how to consume oak – nature’s powerhouse.The best acorns for processing tend to come from white oaks due to lower tannin levels, but red oak acorns can be eaten if they’re what you have to work with. Oaks that produce larger acorns are ideal, like the bur oak. Some varieties offer sweeter nuts that are more palatable, like bur, chinquapin, and chestnut oak varieties.
Acorns begin to drop at the end of summer through the beginning of autumn. Keep an eye out for increased squirrel action so you don’t miss them! Be sure to process acorns within a couple days so they don’t mold. Otherwise, you’ll need to dry them (pread them out on a screen for an extended period, from a couple weeks to a few months) for processing at a later day.
How to Make Acorn Flour
So, let’s assume you’ve found a worthy oak tree. Here’s how you can turn acorns into versatile, nutty acorn flour.
- Collect the acorns – You’ll need a large amount to make this process worth your while. Collect several pounds of freshly fallen acorns. Avoid dirty, broken, or very dry looking acorns. Then, you’ll need to make sure they’re free from weevils. To do this, drop the acorns into a bucket of water and toss the floaters. You can also check for the tiny bore holes that the adult acorn munching beetles leave. Toss the wormy acorns.
- Boil – Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add your acorns. Quick, now! You only want the acorns in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Pour into a colander to drain water. This step serves to soften the shells a bit, making them easier to crack.
- Crack – Now it’s time to crack the shells on your acorns. You can do this with a handheld nutcracker, a mallet and towel, or with a large nutcracker.
- Dry – Now it’s time to dry out the cracked nuts. This can be accomplished in a dehydrator, by leaving them out in the sun on screens to dry naturally, or in a low temperature oven.
- Separate meats – Time to get to the good stuff! To extract the actual nuts, often times known as the meat. Because you’ve already dried out the cracked nuts, it should be very easy to just rub off the shells and skins with your hands. Once you’ve got the meats out, you’ll need to give them meats a quick mashing with a potato masher.
- Leach – This is the part where you get rid of the tannins, effectively making the inedible acorns edible. There are several ways you can do this, but cold-leaching is today’s preferred method. To do this, you’ll place the smashed nut meats into a cheese cloth bag. Then, you’ll place the bag into a five gallon bucket of cold, clean water. Give the bag a squeeze or two to make sure the water is getting between the pieces. Leave it to soak for about half an hour, drain the water, and then do it again. Repeat this cycle until the water is clear.
- Dry – Dry out leached, smashed meats on a cookie sheet by spreading them thinly and then placing the cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees F for a few hours or until dry.
- Mash – This can be accomplished with a simple, handheld potato masher, or you can employ the use of an immersion blender or food processor if doing it by hand doesn’t sound appealing. You can also use a coffee grinder or conventional grain mill.
- Sift – Using a mesh colander, sift the flour to make sure there are no large or hard pieces remaining. Now you’ve got usable acorn flour. Store it in an airtight container and it should be good for several months. While it doesn’t preform exactly like regular wheat flour, there’s still a lot you can do with it by adjusting your favorite recipes a bit.
While making acorn flour is a bit more time consuming than bopping over to the supermarket to pick up a bag of regular wheat flour, consider practicing this skill now so that you have the know how to utilize nature’s fall bounty in a SHTF situation.
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