Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Acorns


We live surrounded by oaks and bombarded by acorns. Oh? You don’t have a metal roof?
Everyone knows that our aboriginal neighbors depended heavily on oaks and acorns: food for themselves, and good hunting the other acorn eaters.
It was a particularly heavy acorn year and sometime in October I was sitting in the sun with Mark Stromberg from Hastings Reserve contemplating acorns.
Mark: “Wouldn’t it be fun to make Christmas cookies out of acorns?!?”  Uh……sure.
Mark was off and running. 
His first task was to figure out which of the nineteen different varieties of oaks produced the best acorns.  It turned out not to be a long search: the big, stately old Valparaiso’s drop far and away the largest acorns.
Next task: How to get the meat out of the shell? The natives ground their acorns into meal with large stones on flat granite.  They just whacked the acorns with a stone ever so.
We didn’t have any of that, so Mark took a look around (they study woodpeckers at Hastings, among other things) and saw an old board on the barn under the big Valpariso that had been fitted for big acorns by the birds.
So…..Mark made a jig.  He measured the circumference of a big pile of acorns, averaged them out and drilled appropriately sized holes in a board.
Next task…..what kind of implement to hit them with? Stones are too inaccurate.  Ball peen hammers slip when they hit.  Hmmm. He remembered an old copper hammer used for knocking off sports car wheel hubs.  Perfect!
So, all the acorns are shelled and lightly crushed.  Next step: soaking in the creek to leach out the tannins.  Dammit, dry fall……no creek.
This one stumped us for a couple of days.  Immersing them in still water is risky because what if we forget to change the water for a day?
Mark called me: “I’ve got it!  Constantly replenishing source of fresh water!  The toilet tanks!”
A true scientist.  The tank water is clean, people.
So…..we leached our acorns for a week or so, dried them in the sun, and then ground them in a grain mill.
There is no gluten in oak meal, so any cookie you come up with will have to be bound with sugar and egg.  Oh, damn!  A very short acorn shortbread.  Apologies to Little Bear.