Exploring My Inner Squirrel, or, How I Went Nuts

Acorns, acorns everywhere! It’s that time of year when walking around the Arts Quad here at work, or walking to the parking lot can be hazardous to your health. The mass quantity of oak trees we have on campus are shedding their bounty, acorns. They fall randomly. They cover the sidewalks. They get kicked while you walk, crushed under tires, and many a squirrel is gathering and burying them for later.

A couple years back, upon seeing all these nuts, I pondered if they were edible. I mean, they are EVERYWHERE! If we can eat them like the squirrels do, why aren’t we taking advantage of them? It’s free food for goodness sake! As it turns out, they are edible. “Three Fat Guys In The Woods” made some porridge out of them. I found a recipe for Acorn-Maple Cookies made with Acorn Flour.

Oak Bounty

Oak Bounty

Last week, as acorns fell from trees barely missing my head and bounced off the sidewalk behind me, I decided that I would try my hand at the incredible, edible acorn. I gathered 30-40 nuts from a variety of different trees over the course of three days. I didn’t want to get too carried away with this, in case they proved to be nasty. While dinner cooked, I started cracking them open with a hammer because, well, who the heck knows where my real nutcracker is?

Hammer Time

Hammer Time

Other than a few nuts that went flying across the kitchen and my fiancé coming out wondering what the heck I was doing, then asking “Why?” when I told him, (answer: In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse and we’re desperate for food, of course) it was a pretty easy and quick process. Some of the nuts I’d chosen were too old. The meat inside was a shriveled, dry thing the size of a raisin. The majority however, proved in good shape.

I moved on to step two after dinner by placing the freshly shucked nut meats into a shallow dish of cold water to soak overnight. Acorns contain a pretty hearty amount of tannins which makes them super bitter to eat right from the shell. I tried a little pre-soak nibble and almost immediately spit it back out. The next morning I drained the brownish-yellow water and refilled the pan to let the nuts soak another eight hours. Another nibble was taken and again, spat out. So far, so bad.

Acorn3

Soak, soak, soak.

Next, I placed them into a pan and began the boiling process. I let them simmer for about 15 minutes, drained, nibbled (without spitting it out this time) and boiled a second time for another 15 minutes.  I drained again and this time, let them sit in the strainer to dry. The final product after three days was a couple handfuls of, hopefully, edible acorn nuts!

Acorn4

Those are some hot nuts!

The final step, taking more than just a nibble. I removed a good-sized piece, popped it in my mouth, chewed cautiously and well, hm. Not so bad. The vast majority of the bitterness was now gone. There wasn’t a lot of flavor to them, a bit like a bland macadamia nut, but they were certainly edible. I think I’ll maybe try and roast them a bit next and add a touch of salt before presenting them to the family for a taste test.

Acorn5

LET’S EAT!!!

Will I do this again? I don’t know. It was a lot of fun really and now that I know better what to look for when gathering the nuts so I get fewer dried up raisins stumps, I may move on to try and make some Acorn Flour and bake up some of those Acorn-Maple cookies I saw a recipe for next.