As the weather in northern California starts to cool a little and tantalize us with a break from the oppressive heat, the acorns start to fall from the oak trees. A highly valued nut in the animal kingdom, the human collector must be diligent to get to them before the animals or the heat. The acorns that fall in this area of California are generally from the Valley Oaks and Live Oaks. The nuts are collected when they are still a green color and must not be allowed to turn to brown or the insides become inedible.
Modern humans are sometimes turned off from collecting and using acorns because of the poisonous tannin that they contain and the amount of work that needs to be done to process them. Never fear though it's really quite easy and a very useful skill to know if you need a high fat, calorie, and protein food should things get scarce.
The beauty about learning how to harvest and use acorns is they exist though out most of the United States in one form or another. The process of removing the tannin is the same no matter what type you are using. First, collect your acorns. No matter where you live you want to collect the fresh ones that have just fallen off the tree. Next, you want to crack them open. Some varieties will require more strength than others to get this done. I've found that just running the tip of a knife down one side opens them enough to peel the shell away and collect the white meat inside.
After you have a pile of white acorn nuts you want to break them down further. You can put them in a towel and hit them with a hammer or you can put them in a food processes and grind them up. Then you will want to leach the tannin out of them. Simply place the insides in a container that will allow for the water to pass through, I use a panty-hoe. If you put them in running water, like a river, this process will only take three days. You can put them in the back tank of a toilet, every time the toilet flushes it will rinse your acorns and, depending on how often that toilet gets used, it will take about a week to remove the tannin. Put them in the tank not the bowl! The water in the tank is clean. The water that is flushed into the bowl of the toilet will be brown for a while until the majority of the tannin is removed but it works. Alternately, you can put them into a Tupper Ware vessel with a lid and strain them out twice a day for 3-4 weeks. The more you change the water the less time it takes to remove the tannin.
Now that you have acorn meat that is free of tannin, we are going to turn it into granola protein bars that you can take with you on the go to provide that extra boost of power you need. I should note that nutritionally the acorn is 42% carbohydrates, 52% fat and 6% protein. It is not what you are eating if you are on a diet but if you are in a long term survival situation it can be the exact thing you need to supercharge your diet. Plus, the acorn is a complete protein making it even more valuable to your body. If you want to learn about all the details on acorn nutrition, check out: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3083/1
Okay, back to the granola bars. The pin of the month for this news letter is from Becca over at MyCrazyGoodLife.com. I chose this pin because she has a great recipe for a granola bar that requires no cooking and is very interchangeable for whatever ingredients you have on hand. Given the adaptability of Becca's recipe I thought it would be perfect for the addition of some acorns. Becca has some great ideas over at her website so if you are in the mood for a great breakfast granola bar, I suggest you head over to her site and check it out.
For my Acorn Granola Bars I used this recipe:
The first thing I did was rinse my acorns thoroughly again (picture 1).
Then I took my acorns and a little bit of water and ran them through the blender (picture 2).
Then strained the mixture through a very tight strainer. I use my strainer covered with a piece of cheesecloth (picture 3). When you are done with this step two very cool things happen. First, the water you will drain off your acorns is acorn milk. It is the same process as making almond milk. It is a very power packed drink and would never be disposed of in a long term survival situation. The next thing that happens is you have created a very finely ground acorn mash that once dried would pass as a rough flour. You can dry it by placing it in a dehydrator or putting it on a cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest temperature possible. You should make sure that your dehydrating tray is small enough to not let the fine particles slip through. If you are using the dehydrator or the oven make sure you spread out the mash into a thin layer.
Put your acorn mash in the oven on the lowest setting until some of the moisture has been removed. I didn't do this but I think removing the moisture would have made a much drier bar.
Chop up the nuts from your trail mix.
Mix the acorn mash, oats and trail mix together in a bowl.
In another smaller bowl, mix the peanut butter and honey together.
Mix the contents of the two bowls together.
Spread a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and then spread your mixture in a thin layer on it (picture 4). Becca suggests putting a piece of parchment paper on top of it and then using a rolling pin or soda can to flatten it out. I just used my hands to pat it down.
Next I put the stripes of honey across it just for looks.
Let it sit for an hour and you've got granola protein bars! If you live in a hot area and they are taking longer to set up you can always throw them in the fridge to speed up the process.