Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Acorn experiment #2 - Pancakes

I had some flour from a second batch of valley oak acorns that I had accidentally broiled instead of drying in my broiler.  I forgot they were drying under the pilot light and I turned on the oven to cook dinner.  Oops.  The flour looked good, but I didn't want to serve it to guests just in case.  So the other night I decided to try out one of the many acorn pancake recipes I saw on the internet.  I finally went with the recipe for acorn griddle cakes at the bottom of this page, but didn't use any wheat flour, just 100% acorn flour, and I think alot more milk.  These things were bone dry.  I wonder if the recipe is supposed to be made with the damp, freshly leached acorn meal.  They were still pretty dry once I cooked them, so I had to use a lot of butter (no complaints here).  But they were delicious.  The acorn had a great flavor.  Served with salmon and a side salad.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Acorns for dinner!

So after I leached and dried my acorn flour I invited some friends over for an experimental dinner.  I invited the 2 friends who helped me gather and then another friend stopped by purely by coincidence.  I decided to make 2 different dishes with the 2 different acorns.  I wanted to compare, though the dishes tasted so different it's hard to say which acorn tasted better.

With the black oak acorns I decided to make a soup.  I found a recipe for acorn soup online.  As always I changed the recipe a bit, substituting things I didn't have or that didn't sound like what I wanted.  I didn't have the pear brandy so I substituted red wine.  I also never added the cayenne, sour cream, or parsley.
With the valley oak acorns I decided to make a scramble, an idea I got from Flavors of Home by Margit Roos-Collins.  Basically I just sauteed garlic in butter and then added some damp acorn flour, some salt and pepper.
I paired this with some broiled salmon with a fresh raspberry sauce and some salad made by one of the guests.

The soup was a bit tangy/sour.  The two friends who helped gather preferred the soup since they liked that tangy taste.  My other friend and I preferred the scramble.  Garlic and butter, how can you go wrong with that?  A delicious meal.  I just finished another round of valley oak acorns.  I have about 2 1/4 cups of flour.  I'm thinking of trying some acorn pancakes, before preparing the rest of my acorns for a larger dinner in January.  And I still have to sample some Tanoak acorns I collected on Mt. Tam.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leaching Acorn Meal

So as promised, here's a little more information about leaching the acorns.  Acorns have tannins, a lot of tannins.  Most acorns have so many tannins that they are not edible without leaching.  Some possible problems that I've read they can cause are constipation, stomach upset, nausea or even kidney failure.  Yikes.  So what to do.  You have to leach the tannins out with water.

First you have to grind or pound the acorns into flour.  I used a spice/coffee grinder to do this the first time, and a blender the 2nd.  With the blender make sure you don't put too much water or the bits of acorn will spin around without actually being chopped down  Then to leach out the tannins there are many options.  Native Californians diverted streams over beds in the sand, some people boil the acorns changing the water, or pour hot water over it, others pour cold water over the acorn flour, or tie it to a faucet in cheese cloth and let it drip over night.
I opted for yet another option I found on page 5 of Suellen Ocean's "Acorns and Eat 'Em".  I didn't need the flour right away, so I put the acorn flour in a jar and filled it with water.  I shook it up and put it in the fridge to let the flour settle out.  Once or twice a day I would pour the dark, tannin-filled water off the top, fill the jar with fresh water and put it back in the fridge.  I read you need to do this for a week or 2, depending on the type of acorn, until the water gets clearer.  After two weeks, the water was definitely lighter, but still pretty dark.  So I decided to run some water through it.  I lined a strainer with cheese cloth and dumped the acorn meal in.  I left a small stream of water pouring out of the faucet to keep the strainer filled with water for a couple hours.  Normally you do this overnight, but I had already leached a lot of the tannins out in the jar.
I learned that cheesecloth is not the best method to do this.  A lot of the acorn flour got stuck between the layers of cheesecloth.  It was difficult to remove.  So round 2 I used a linen dishcloth.  Much better.  I had no immediate need to use the flour, so I squeezed out as much water as possible, spread it out on a cookie sheet and put it in a warm oven.  Stir it occasionally and break up any clumps.  When you're sure it's dry you can store it.  Many things I read said to store it in the fridge since acorn flour has a lot of oil and can go rancid if stored at room temperature for too long.  Others said it's not a problem, but to be safe I stored it in the fridge.
On my second round there was less flour.  After two weeks the water was pretty clear.  I put it in the strainer and just filled the strainer a few times until the water ran clear, then dried that flour as well.  Now I had some flour to experiment with, which I'll describe in my next post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Acorns - The Harvest

Well it's been a very long time since I last blogged.  A little harder to keep up with this when I no longer have a garden.  I've been doing a lot of hiking and camping in the last 6 months.  Perhaps more on that later.  But since it's Fall and Thanksgiving is approaching I thought I'd post about my current attempt to eat acorns for the first time. 

I attempted to harvest some last year, but got to it too late and basically got a small amount of wormy acorns.  Not fun.  This year I was a lot luckier.  I was able to collect acorns from both the California Black Oak (Quercus keloggii) and the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata).  *The common names are often used in other regions to refer to different oaks*  As you can see from the picture the acorns look very different.
The black oak acorns are on the left above.  They are much smaller and rounder.  The valley oak acorns on the right are much longer and bigger.  And once they are cracked they are very different as well.
Just to confuse you all, in the bowls, the shelled valley oak acorns are now on the left and the black oak acorns on the right.  The black oak acorns have a very difficult to remove skin.  Especially hard with undersized acorns of which I had more than my fair share.  I read somewhere to sprinkle them with water, let them dry and then rub the skins off.  I had to do this twice, but it definitely helped speed up the process.
Then into my spice grinder and the flour (which smells really nice) into a jar with some cold water. And into the fridge.  You have to leach the tannins out of acorns to make them safe to eat.  More on my adventures in leaching the acorn flour in my next post.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eclipse and blooms in the Sierras

So I went up to the Sierras with some friends to see the annular eclipse this last weekend, and was also pleasantly surprised to see a lot of spring flowers.  First some pics of the eclipse and the weird suncircles that would filter through the leaves of the trees.
And now onto flowers.  The dogwoods were in bloom.  This one was next to our campsite.
I've never seen so many fairy lanterns (Calochortus albus) before.  They were scattered all along this trail.

More after the jump.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Angel Island

So the bizarre weather continues.  It being Super Bowl Sunday today, I decided to take advantage and go to Angel Island out on the bay.  We caught the ferry from Tiburon.
Had some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge on the ride over, and from the island itself.
Hiked up the North Ridge trail to the top of Mt. Livermore, the highest spot on the island.  Saw a lot of California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) with long dripping catkins along the way.
And fields and fields of Star Lily, or Death Camas (Zigadenus fremontii)  Most haven't bloomed yet, but quite a few have.
Although there were some signs of the fire in 2008, which apparently burnt about half the island, the island seemed really green to me.  The north side of the island is still heavily forested and there were quite a few big oaks and other trees in other parts of the island.
We saw one deer, several hawks and vultures, and not too many people.  A really spectacular day.  In the 60s, sunny, almost no wind and great views.  All at the beginning of February.