Sunday, November 27, 2011

From little acorns.... pancakes!

Finally I got around to making something with the acorns that I harvested earlier this year;  pancakes.  And, I wasn't at all disappointed.  They were nutty and sweet and a surprise considering that a raw acorn tastes plenty bitter.  Hence, I'll just bet you'd be interested in the recipe which I borrowed from Redhawk; a Lakota Native American.  He/she can be found at 

Acorn Griddle Cakes
  • 2/3 C finely ground leached acorn meal
  • 1/3 C unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 3 Tbl melted butter
Combine dry ingredients. Mix together egg and milk, then beat into dry ingredients, forming a smooth batter. If the batter is a little thick, add a bit more milk.  Then add butter. Drop batter onto hot, greased griddle. Bake, turning each cake when it is browned on underside and puffed and slightly set on top. Makes 12 to 15.

The Georgia Forestry Commission lists these oak species as native to the state:
Oak, Black
Oak, Blackjack
Oak, Bluejack
Oak, Chestnut
Oak, Georgia
Oak, Laurel
Oak, Live
Oak, Northern Red
Oak, Overcup
Oak, Post
Oak, Scarlet
Oak, Shumard
Oak, Southern Red
Oak, Swamp Chestnut
Oak, Turkey
Oak, Water
Oak, White
Oak, Willow

           The White Oak is known to have the sweetest, least tannin imbued nuts.  The less tannin a nut has    the easier it is to process.  And, to answer the question -- how do you process an acorn -- here's the simple answer. 

Take a hammer and gently rap the nut.  The shell will break.  Pick out the pieces of acorn and put it into bowl.  Once all the acorns have been shelled, you need to break them into smaller pieces.  This can be done by putting them into a food processor or by wrapping them in a towel and hitting them with a hammer.  Regardless of your choice.... you get the idea. 

Now, you need to leach the tannins.  There are two simple ways that I like.  One is to put your nut meats into a handkerchief or piece of fine grade cheese cloth and hang it in the toilet tank -- repeat.... the TANK-- and let the flush rinse the tannins away for a day or three depending on the size of your household and the use of the toilet.  The other easy way is to put your hanky into a running stream, brook, river.... and let the rushing water do the job.  There are other more labor intensive methods but why bother when life can be so easy? 

When you finally remove your finished nuts you need to dry them.  Squeeze out the excess water and then put them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in an 350 F oven.  Let them bake until golden brown.  Normally this takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.  Once they are dry, put them into an air tight container...a jar or plastic bag will do...and they will stay fresh until you decide to use them.  To make the bits into flour, put a handy amount into the coffee grinder and just blend until all the bits become powder.  More than likely you will need to do this in two or three actions.  Pulse...shake the granules down....pulse again....shake the powder and granule down.....pulse again and you are probably finished and have a lovely flour.

Another tidbit of interest:  Oaks do not produce acorns before they are 20 years old and can wait as late as 50 years of age so if you don't plant one when you are young you may never havest acorns in your yard. On the other hand, as you walk the woods in search of an acorn rejoice...the little morsels that have fallen from the limb on that lovely autumn day comes from a mighty old tree.  Even more interesting.... one oak can produce as many as 2500 acorns in a single season.  How's that for pancakes????

Walk quietly and enjoy the peace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Winter greens are in abundance

Hairy Bitter Cress

Took a walk today up the mountain only to find stiff breezes and about a dozen edible wild plants.  As you can tell from previous blogs, I'm a foodie and nothing makes me happier than finding something to eat.  I'll keep the column short today and simply make a list of what you can find in the southern climes just before Thanksgiving.

Onion garlic,
Garlic Mustard
Curly Dock
English Plantain
Mt. Mint
Hairy Bitter Cress
Common Mullein

From here you see you can makes yourself a pretty decent meal and what else goes good with a wonderful turkey for this Thanksgiving.... and abundance of wild greens.

Ciao and Buonapetito

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fungus are few but greens are in abundance

Surprise, surprise!  Here I was, walking through the woods, which I haven't had much chance to do these past months, when what did I find.... a wonderous patch of chickweed.  Now I know I spoke of this before but I thought you all would be happy to know that even if its November.... there are treasures to be found.

That wasn't the only thing.  How about Curly Dock.  There it was, growing on the edge of the field.  Lovely curly leaves just waiting to be picked.  This is one of my favorite "weeds".  As I understand it, dock was the original spinach before farmers got their hands on it and started to plant the hybid spinach.  It used to be you could collect this to your hearts content and be filled with good food.  Today, it is more difficult to find what with all the construction and grooming that goes on.  Nevertheless, there is nothing like a plate of Curly Dock to make a happy dinner. 

This evening I prepared some with its brother, the spinach.   I washed the dock and the spinach and coursely chopped it.  In a saute pan I melted a nice knob of butter and, when it was completely melted I threw in the, still damp, mix of greens.  Immediately I put a lid on the mix and cooked it on low for about 5 minutes...just enough to wilt all the greens.  Let's say that this was one of the finest fall meals I've enjoyed.  Hopefully, you will try it in the days ahead.

Lastly, mushrooms are in short supply.  There has been the occassional Hen of the Woods but, for the most part there is a shortage due to the lack of water.  Here's hoping that spring is better in the fungus family.