Pancakes are definitely a comfort food. Making them with flour from acorns you’ve harvested adds another level of deliciousness and satisfaction.
We go through a good amount of acorn flour in our house every year. We use it in breads, muffins, pasta, pancakes, pie crusts, and any other recipes calling for regular wheat flour. Acorns are as readily available as the ubiquitous oak trees that produce them. They are easy to harvest, since you just need to pick them up off the ground.
The more challenging part of the process comes in turning them from bitter nutmeat to palatable and nutritious flour. It’s time consuming, but not difficult. The basic steps include: cleaning, shelling, leaching, drying, grinding (or milling), and storing.
Clean the harvested acorns by simply rinsing in cool water. Fill a sink, dump them in, and swish them around to loosen any sand or dirt. Remove the nuts from the water and place on towels to dry. I’ve found that if you don’t have an actual nut cracking machine, like a Davebilt Nutcracker, a solid set of channellock pliers and a pocket knife work well. Crack the nut’s shell with the pliers, and then peel it away with the pocket knife or a strong thumbnail.
Acorn shells are unlike those of other nuts. They are pliable, like thin flexible plastic, so you probably won’t shatter the shell with the pliers. You’ll want to release the nutmeat from the shell as whole as you can. It will save time in separating shell from smaller bits of nutmeat.
Apply just enough pressure to crack the shell and then extract the nutmeat with the pocket knife. You’ll use the knife to almost peel the shell from the nutmeat. This sounds tedious, and it is. It will go faster if you do each step on all of the harvested nuts at once. It’s a great task to work on while watching a ball game!
Leaching is the process of removing the bitter tannin from the nutmeat with water. You can perform this task through either hot leaching or cold leaching. Cold leaching acorns takes longer, usually several days to more than a week. However, it may produce a milder tasting nut.
Hot leaching acorns takes a few hours to a whole day, depending on the quantity of nuts you need to process. It involves boiling the nutmeat repeatedly, in several changes of water, until the bitterness has dissipated. I’ve had good results with both methods, but I generally prefer the cold leach method.
Once the acorns are leached, you can dry and then ground them into flour, like you would any nut or grain. You must remember to properly store the flour in a freezer if you’re not going to use it immediately. Nuts can turn rancid if left out, but freezing them will keep them viable for a long time.
I really look forward to a breakfast of acorn flour pancakes in the cooler months. I love the dark color, subtle sweetness, and hefty nature of acorn pancakes. They make a very satisfying and robust breakfast to fuel yourself during the cooler days of autumn and winter. They are even better if you can top them with some wild blueberries or other fruit and a bit of real maple syrup.
Here’s my basic acorn pancake recipe. The amounts given here would serve one hungry person, so double everything if you’re feeding two. I make small pancakes, using maybe 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. They’re easier to butter or spread with jam, slip into a ziplock baggie, and carry in a jacket pocket.
Acorn Flour Pancakes
- 1/2 cup heaping all-purpose or bread flour
- 1/2 cup acorn flour
- 2 tbps sugar (or 1 tbps honey if you like)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- glug of vegetable oil
- 1 egg
Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Whisk together milk, vegetable oil and egg in another bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix quickly and roughly with a fork.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Pour a teaspoon or so of oil in pan and spread it around and pour about 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake; try to fit as many as you can into the skillet.
When the surface of the pancakes gets a little bubbly and the sides firm up, gently flip and cook the other side for a couple minutes until browned and interior isn’t doughy.
Top with a bit of butter, maple syrup, berries, or your preferred topping
All images by author, David Smith