I‘ve heard about the possibility to use the fruits of the oak tree – acorns – for baking at a suvival video on youtube and I tried it by myself. Not only in autumn but all around the year you can find acorns at the ground around the trees. They are very underrated and close to no one knows how rich of energy they are (500kcal/2130kJ per 100g). In a crisis people will possibly remember the nut trees and bushes (walnut, hazelnut) and pick them very quickly but the mass of acorns in the forests will almost be ignored. That’s your turn – go and do what others don’t know. You don’t have to starve to death just because there is no flour left at the (plundered) supermarkets. And you don’t have to wait for help from some „bread for the world“ organisation…
First of all: Yes, acorns are not eatable raw because of their high amount of tannins. Without pretreatment you would propably get painful digestion-problems. But the tannin is soluble in water. That’s why old acorns from the ground that were exposed to rain over some months contain less tannin than fresh ones from the tree (which are at the other hand more likely to not be rotten inside ore infested by insects or worms). In order to get rid of the tannins you have to peel the acorns which is the most awkward part of the whole preparation process. First I tried to use the fat acorns from the pin oak (Quercus palustris) which originates from the east part of Northamerica but they have been planted in Germany too and I found some trees in Saxony.
I’ve read in an instruction that roasting will help to peel them but it doesn’t worked well. The shell was still strongly attached to the fruit. Furthermore I was not sure if the acorns from the pin oak were recommended for baking and eating so I dropped that first attempt and collected acorns from the common German oak (Quercus petraea/Quercus robur) instead.
It took us a whole evening to peel enough acorns. But working together while having a talk and some good music in the background helps to get the work done. After that comes the watering to get rid of the tannins. You have three different options which differ in their relation of time- and energyconsumption:
You can simply water them in a bucket for many hours and exchange the water until it doesn’t become brown anymore. I guess this method is only useful for old acorns which already contain less tannin. Another method ist to put the (peeled) acorns in a fine-meshed net or a sock and to lay that in the running water of a clean stream or river (make sure that it doesn’t swim away…) This method is said to be used by the american indians and I think it’s the most easiest way to let nature do the job for you without much effort. For my trial I choosed the fast method and cooked the acorns. No matter which method you choose, I recommend to cut the acorns in smaller pieces before. Because I used quite fresh acorns I had to cook them for a rather long time. As a point of reference: I think it was something around 7-8 times of water exchange after boiling them 5-10 minutes each.
You have to exchange the water with fresh one when it’s brown and saturated with tannin. After several times of exchange it will be less and less brown and close to being clear. Now the acorns are soft and can be mashed to some kind of wet flour. Acorns are gluten-free which is good for allergic people but at the other hand a bread made from pure oak flour will not stick together but rather fall apart in crumbs. Eggs and potato starch as additives could help against this disadvantage but to get a proper bread for non-survival purpose you can simply mix it with common flour of wheat, rye or spelt. I used a glutenfree flour-mix instead.
A glutenfree dough differs in it’s consistence from a common gluten-dough and that’s why I cannot say how much flour I’ve added to my acorns because I evaluated that by touch. In fact you have to add less water in comparison with a normal non-acorn bread because the acorns are still wet after the watering process. You need to add approximatly 20g of fresh yeast for a 1kg bread, one or two tablespoons of sugar/fruitsugar/honey, a teaspoon or two of salt, some tablespoons of oil and if you want some seeds – sunflower seeds for example. Mix everything very well and fill it into a oiled baking form and let the dough raise at a warm place. The baking time will be around 45 to 55 minutes at 180-200°C.
Acorns contain a higher amount of calories than common flour, they are for free and can be collected in large quantities easily. If you are lucky to have a woodburning stove, the need of energy for cooking is negligible. Our bread turned out very delicious and we felt very healthy after eating it. At our 7 hour hiking trip in the alps yesterday we have eaten from the acorn bread too and we felt fantastic with it. Nourished with oak-power we walked uphill very easily and motivated 🙂