EASY HOMEMADE ACORN FLOUR.

acorns!

Acorn flour is one of the most nutritious (and delicious) of forgeable foods out there––high protein, high mineral content. It is admittedly a fair amount of work, depending on your help and your equipment, but think of it this way: you didn’t have to weed, cultivate or plant anything to get them. You are literally just harvesting and processing. So in terms of work, it is probably equally time intensive, or perhaps less time intensive, than your average cultivated grain.

HARVESTING ACORNS 
Acorns are the seeds of oak trees. They can be found in parks, rest areas, cities and farms––by the boatload in masting years. Depending on region and tree species, acorns come in many different shapes and sizes. For us, we have several large white oak trees around that often give fat, healthy acorns. They start to drop sometime in the October, though I recommend waiting until after the first frost to harvest, because the first acorns that drop are often the less viable nuts. To make it easy, harvest acorns without holes in the side. The holes are from a tiny grub that eats, and ruins, the acorn. Once you have harvested all you would like, do a float test to check the rest of your acorns by pouring water over the group, and removing the floating nuts. Then stir and repeat. You will still find bad ones, but markedly less than without the float test.

DRYING
Spread the acorns out on a baking sheet (or ten), then place them somewhere warm and well-ventilated to dry. We dry our either above our stove or in the greenhouse. Leave them for at least two to four weeks depending on heat and air flow.

SHELLING
I hesitate to recommend our first shelling method, but you can find what works for you. Or maybe you have a method you’d like to recommend. Some people run it over with their cars, but without cement that wouldn’t work for us as our driveway is dirt (or mud). Before we got a nutcracker through the KSU small farmers’ grant, we cracked each acorn individually with a garlic press. This goes surprisingly quick, though it’s a lot of work when dealing with five gallons of nuts. After we have cracked them all, we go back through and remove the nut. I enjoy this part of the process as it’s another chance to remove bad nuts. It will take a couple days per bucket of acorns this way, but, you know, it’s winter so what else do we have going on?

LEACHING
Leaching is the process by which you use water to remove a mineral, nutrient or chemical. In the acorn’s case, it’s tannins you want to remove. Acorns are practically inedible before leaching, like eating underripe persimmons (voice of experience here). And there are many different ways to do it. I’ll give you the two we know. First, there is the creek method––the lazy method. Stuff all the nuts into a permeable sack (pillow cases work), tie it to a tree in a clean creek or spring and let it sit there submerged for a month, checking on it regularly for holes. There is also cold-leaching which is essentially letting the nuts (or ground flour, which we do after leaching, but some do before) soak in cold water that is changed every few days, or percolated if you’re fancy. Taste the nuts periodically to test for tannins––when you can tolerate it, you’re good to go. As for hot leaching, I hear it’s fast, but like most fast things in food, sacrifices flavor and texture so we don’t bother. You can also neutralize the tannins with lime or lye, but we don’t have any experience with that. If you do, please feel free to share!

WASHING THEN DRYING AGAIN
After leaching we remove the acorns and, if done in a creek, wash them. While washing them we try to remove as much skin as possible, as the skin tends to maintain some of the tannin. Don’t go nuts here––pun not necessarily intended. As far as I can tell, a little skin doesn’t seem to make a big difference, plus it adds a little darkness to the color. You do still want to wash off any silt or dirt that has collected on your acorns, though, if you used the creek method. Dirt definitely makes a flavor, and textural, difference. Next, spread them out and, for creek leaching, dry them again for a week or so. This will help kill any bacteria, and also, make them easier to grind.

GRINDING INTO FLOUR
People may use the leached acorns whole but typically they are ground for flour. Which means the job’s not done yet. We didn’t have a nice grinder when we first started doing acorns, but we are proof you don’t need one. We had a meat grinder, which we ran them through first to break up the large chunks, then we finished the nuts in a coffee grinder. Et voila! Acorn flour!

COOKING WITH ACORN FLOUR
Acorn flour is not wheat flour. You can use it for grits, for certain pie crusts, and mixed in with cookies or pancakes (our personal favorite) but it will not rise like wheat. Be creative. Try thickening a soup with it. Try the “grits”. It doesn’t make a great gravy (it separated when we tried it), but it does make a good thickener for sauces, or a nice addition to fry batter. You can use it all at once or think of it as a flavoring––go nuts! (Pun kind of intended that time.)

General Notes:
Ratio: One gallon of nuts makes roughly one quart of flour
Harvest time: Around ten minutes per gallon
Active time: Around one hour per gallon
Overall Time: 15 to 60 days, depending on equipment and leaching methods

-Jesse.

EASY NATURAL HOMEMADE ROOT BEER.

Persimmon Root BeerI’ll be honest, I like soda (or pop, or cola, or whatever your colloquialism may be), but I hardly drink the stuff. Too sugary, too processed, not my thing. But having grown up with soda I do sometimes get the craving for one, especially around the fall when a good root beer, or root beer float, could really hit the spot.

So here’s our recipe to make your own root beer, only using water, roots, honey and fruit (if desired)—no starter needed (though if you keep a ginger bug, go nuts). IMPORTANT NOTE: this is a fermented product and the end result will contain a slight bit of alcohol, akin perhaps to kombucha. If you don’t let your kids drink kombucha, this may not be your recipe. Also, the longer it ages, the higher the alcohol level will rise, so kids should drink it fresh and in small quantities. OTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: if this post looks funny, it’s because I (Jesse) am doing it all by myself and can’t figure out how to put spaces between paragraphs. You will have to pretend they’re there. And they’re awesome.

IMG_3115

Makes One Gallon

you’ll need:

1-2 lbs dried sassafras root (and/or other flavorful roots such as sarsaparilla)
1 and 1/4 gallons water
2 cups raw honey (if not raw, or if you choose to use sugar––1 1/2 cups––you may have to add some form of starter or unwashed fruit)
1-2 lbs wild persimmons or other fruit (optional)
One 2 gallon glass jar or crock
Small plastic bottles for bottling with lids
 
persimmons.

Chop the dry roots into large chunks. (Our friends at Rolf and Daughters even suggest toasting the roots slightly first to concentrate the flavor.) In a large pot, simmer the roots with 1/2 gallon of water for at least one hour until fragrant and dark. It should reduce slightly, and be a deep red. Add the rest of the water and let cool to room temperature. Once sufficiently cool, stir in raw honey and persimmons whole. Do not crush fruit or the drink will become pulpy (speaking from experience). Place in crock or glass jar and cover with cloth tied on tightly to keep bugs out. Leave at room temperature. Let sit overnight. The next day, stir vigorously two or three times with wooden spoon. Fermentation should begin within 48 hours.

potboiler.

Once it begins to bubble slightly, put it into bottles or jars and put lids on. At this point, allow to sit at room temperature for one day, until carbonation is visible, or until you hear a light “fizz” when you open a bottle. Place in fridge and drink anytime thereafter. Take into consideration that the bottles will become highly pressurized from the carbon dioxide, and if not consumed within few days will need to be “burped” by removing the lid carefully and releasing the gas. The fridge will slow down the pressurization, but keep an eye on them. Otherwise you may have an explosion. For serious. Again, this fermentation will produce trace amounts of alcohol and that percentage will increase over time. Consume fresh and cold.

– Jesse

GRILLED PIZZA.

grilled pizza.YOU GUYS! This is a pretty big deal for us….we got a new grill. Since we cook completely on the woodstove in our house, the summers have been pretty tough. Plus, we don’t have a way to bake. We had a teeny tiny Weber grill that was good for making grilled cheese, but now…we have a real grill. A way to cook outside in the summer AND (with a little practice) a way to bake! So far we’ve mastered pizzas and biscuits. We used our honey pizza crust recipe and it worked perfectly! Up next….bread! Anybody have any tips?

grilled pizza.

SPICY GARLIC SCAPE RELISH RECIPE.

garlic scapes.

Every year in the late Spring we pick off the flower stems growing on top of our hard neck garlic – the scape, or pigtail, as the flower is often referred. Removing these undeveloped flowers encourages the garlic plant to put its energy into creating a larger bulb for later harvest. But farmers soon find themselves with as many scapes as they have garlic plants. Luckily for us, garlic scapes are a special kind of tasty.

Scapes taste a bit like garlicky green onions, and are great in stir-fry or salad. But still, if you have a lot of garlic, it’s hard to use them all before they lose their freshness. That is why this easy relish is an excellent way to keep the scapes around a little longer and to turn them into an exciting and versatile summer condiment.

Makes one quart.

At least 3 dozen scapes (may need more depending on scape size)
1 1/2  tbs Salt
3 cups water (Non-Chlorinated)
2 peppercorns
2 fresh hot peppers (habenero preferably)
Zest of one lemon
Fresh Cilantro (optional)
Mason Jar

Cut your scapes into inch-long pieces. Toss in mixing bowl with lemon zest, and peppercorns then stuff into mason jar until at least three quarters full. Dissolve salt into room temperature, non-chlorinated water then pour brine over scape mixture in jar. Fill jar within one inch of top. Since this is a ferment, you’ll need to leave room for expansion. Place a small sandwich bag of water overtop of the ferment to keep the solids submerged below the brine. Cover jar with small piece of cloth and secure with string or rubber band. Set the relish on the countertop to ferment for at least seven days then transfer to either a dark cellar or refrigerator while waiting for fresh peppers to come in season. It’s nice to allow the flavors to marry for at least a week or two, longer if possible. When fresh peppers are available, blend garlic scapes in food processor with fresh peppers and cilantro (if desired). Serve as salsa, our use as a relish with your summer grilling. Anything from eggs to potato hash to hamburgers will find this spicy relish to be an ideal compliment. Keep in refrigerator or cellar between uses. Will last months in right conditions.

scape relish.

COOKING WITH STEW HENS AND ROOSTERS.

making chicken soup.

Culling (“removing animals from the herd”) is part of raising chickens. It’s not fun, but if you want to keep a healthy and affordable flock, it’s a necessity. Sometimes it’s an old hen who is no longer laying eggs (but is still eating feed). Sometimes it’s one (or EIGHT) too many roosters, or even an aggressive rooster. Now, these birds are not like the chicken you get at the store. They’re often fattier, with less meat on them, but tasty nonetheless. This week, it was a rooster that had to go (not as fatty as stew hens usually), but he didn’t go to waste. The offal went to Wendell and the meat went into a soup. If you don’t keep chickens, ask your farmer for a stew hen or rooster. I’m sure they will happily oblige.

making chicken soup.

CULL CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE
(makes 1/2 gallon of stock, 1/2 gallon of soup––serves four)
Cook time: the longer the better (at least four hours)

1 whole cull chicken cleaned
3-4 medium size carrots, large diced
2 medium size onions, large diced
1/2 large bulb fennel, large diced
4 quarts of veg stock or water
Herbs in bouquet garnis (recommended: thyme, bay leaf, rosemary)
2 cups wine (optional)
Mushrooms (optional)
1/2 lbs of Pasta (penne is our favorite) or 1 lbs of potatoes (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Ground pepper

making chicken soup.

Put a large pot on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or lard. Once hot, sear the whole chicken until light gold on each side then remove whole chicken with tongs and set on plate. Add onions to pan and stir and cook until translucent. Then add fennel and carrots and stir and cook until all veggies are soft. Add whole chicken back in, then if you are going to add wine, add it now. Once the smell of alcohol has boiled off, about one or two minutes, add stock until chicken is covered. Place on lid and let simmer for several hours. Often, we’ll cook the soup over the course of a whole day. If using a fatty stew hen, you may need to skim off some of the fat collecting on the surface. A little is OK. Before you add potatoes, and before you take the meat off the chicken bones, but after several hours of cooking, remove half the soup and freeze for chicken broth for another day (we always try and cook for at least two meals, or in this case, a possible sick day). Add potatoes two hours before serving, or pasta thirty minutes before. Add herbs and garlic an hour before serving.

When serving, carefully remove chicken and herbs. Meat should fall off bone easily, and stir meat back into soup, leaving the carcass out. Serve warm when potatoes or pasta is soft but not mush. Enjoy!

– Jesse.

making chicken soup.

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