Urban Foragers

September 24, 2012

Today you will learn how to tune into nature and turn seemingly useless acorns into edible delights. But first, a bit of blog keeping: apparently Nidhi has given up on our fair city and her socialite status. COME BACK FROM MICHIGAN and be fabulous in CLE again, bestie!!!!

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FFB4426C-C64E-4015-AA58-371CF41EFEDC Acorns are ubiquitous whether you live out in the woods or in the middle of a large city because oak trees are hardy and resilient. Acorns may also be one of the most sustainable sources of food; but certainly one of the most labor intensive. If all Native American tribes and Pioneers used this much effort in bread-making, I’m certain I would have thrown myself to the wolves. 

If you are anything like me and 99.99999% of the world, you’ve never picked up an acorn and said “I bet this is a fabulous substitute for flour in muffins”. In fact, you likely didn’t know or care to know that there is fruit inside of an acorn! And you most certainly did not ever entertain the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon boiling and re-boiling and re-re-re-re-re-boiling acorn meat to release all of it tannic (read: harmful to your kidneys) acid.

B8DA6A61-A5FA-4CC0-B11B-F76C7E3579F3I can honestly say I was not overcome with excitement when Stephen proposed scavenging for acorns, but since it was a lovely morning and I’d never been to Shaker Lakes (a travesty, I know), I agreed to the hunt if it could be prefaced a lovely brunch at Bon Vivant (see earlier post). Stephen claims he felt an urge 8BD44B7E-B2C8-4EA8-9C97-50BF2AD4742Eto Google “acorn bread” after viewing some plump acorns on the ground, but I think he must have been replaying a scene fro m his childhood, when he attended a Pioneer Day in Chagrin.

Last weekend, once we found the mother of all white oak trees (the type of oak lending the meatiest, tastiest, least poisonous acorns) I did actually enjoy myself – until I was whacked on the back by an angry acorn, tumbling 50 feet from the top of the tree.

After two hours of careful gathering (soft shells are no good, as are ones with holes in them frIMG-20120916-01421om worms or squirrels), we amassed somewhere between 600 and 800 acorns, later resulting in 12 cups of acorn flour. FYI: If the idea of behaving like Pioneers and baking, smashing, drying, boiling, blending and baking acorns is tantalizing, know that the greatest time sink is the shelling process. And I thought pistachios were annoying!

The foodstuffs you can produce with acorn flour is endless, as it easily IMG-20120923-01497substitutes for all-purpose flour; We’re thinking muffins and pancakes for starters. The bitter taste of the acorn dissipates the more you boil, but to me, it could never be something to eat on it’s own, like pistachios or almonds. However, I did thoroughly enjoy the bread and look forward to making my own to share with skeptical co-workers and friends.

Make your own by following our slightly amended version of the recipe below.

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“Urban Forager” Acorn Bread by Ava Chin, the Urban Forager, is a professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at the College of Staten Island-CUNY

IMG-20120922-01472 1 cup acorn meal
½ cup corn meal
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon melted butter or oil
2 teaspoons sugar, with a little on reserve for the yeast
1 packet of yeast with ¼ cup of warmed water
1 egg
IMG-20120922-01478 ½ cup tap water
½ cup of milk

***Stephen added cranberries and walnuts, based on rec’s from other bloggers.

1. Combine acorn and corn meal with flour, butter, and sugar.
2. Mix yeast with warmed water and reserved sugar (follow packet recipe), and allow to sit until frothy.
IMG-20120922-01474 3. Add yeast, egg, water, and milk.
4. With floured hands and on a floured surface, knead dough until stiff.
5. Allow dough to sit in warm place to rise, covered. ***We found this to take about an hour.
6. When dough has doubled in size, knead again, and allow to rise.
7. Place dough in greased pan, or fashion it into a desirable loaf shape, IMG-20120923-01492 before placing into a pre-heated oven, 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Voila, acorn bread!

Squirrels, watch out.

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Link to Urban Foraging on The Local, by the NYTimes.   

IMG-20120923-01494 Everything you ever wanted to know about acorns, and more: http://www.grandpappy.info/racorns.htm

http://honest-food.net/2010/01/03/acorn-cake-and-acorns-around-the-world/

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/12/recipes-for-the-mighty-acorn-a-forager-experiments/67228/

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