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foraging | Backyard Grocery

foraging

Acorn honey cake

acorn honey cake

Feeling super traditional? You can’t get more American than acorn honey cake.

So, I’ve become obsessed with foraging for acorns. A few weeks ago, I harvested my first batch to make acorn flour. I chose to make the flour because I wanted to make an acorn honey cake, a recipe from Hunter Angler Gardner Cook. A cake seemed like a good first acorn based food to try.

I thought Thanksgiving would be the best day to try it out. I haven’t seen it documented, but I wouldn’t be surprised if acorn honey cake was served at the first Thanksgiving. Maybe.

I was amazed at how light and fluffy it turned out, mostly because I was expecting it to be really dry (that was the warning from the website). And the taste is so interesting. It kind of looks and tastes like gingerbread, although there is no ginger in it. The taste may be in part due to the olive oil. I’ve never baked with olive oil, and almost switched it out with grape seed oil. But I decided to stay true to the recipe, and am glad I did.

The verdict in our house: acorn honey cake is worth the effort. I think it’s going to become a new Thanksgiving tradition for me.

acorn honey cake

This cake is surprisingly moist and light. Yum.

Recipe: Acorn Honey Cake

Summary: A tasty, very Virginia cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup acorn
  • 1/2 cup call-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  • Butter for greasing pan

Instructions

  1. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    acorn honey cake
  3. Mix the flours, baking soda and powder, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Beat the egg yolks, oil, honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar together until it looks like caramel. Mix in the dry ingredients.
    acorn honey cake
  5. In another bowl, add the egg whites and just a pinch of salt and beat into soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat a bit more, so the whites are reaching the firm peak stage.
  6. Fold the egg whites into the dough a little at a time gently.
    acorn honey cake
  7. Pour the dough into the springform pan. Using a rubber spatula flatten out the top and place in the oven as fast as you can.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, watch for burning.
  9. Remove from the oven, let rest 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
  10. When the cake has cooled for 15-20 minutes, dust with the confectioner’s sugar.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Copyright © Susan Rose.


Making Acorn Flour

making acorn flour

Making acorn flour is a time-honored American tradition…and pretty darn easy.

When I started eating more local foods and growing much of my own produce, I really didn’t think I’d become a forager. But more and more, it seems like a cool idea. I live in Virginia, which is an incredibly abundant place. I was thinking on that this fall as the Burr Oak in my back yard incessantly pelted my roof with acorns. Then I thought, how does one go about making acorn flour? I didn’t even know if acorns were edible.

Well, acorns are edible and making acorn flour is really not all that difficult. Tedious. Time consuming. But not difficult.

I found instructions on how to do it on one of my favorite sites, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, along with some history on making acorn flour and its various uses. So, a week or so ago on a blustery Sunday, I grabbed a bucket and went out back to forage for some acorns. I have up within in minutes. The squirrels had done a very good job of eating the acorns. If I dug through the leaves I could find more, but it was musty, moldy work and I had another source. There are several trees in my neighborhood and two of them dump most of their acorns by the carport area. The leaves get collected, but the acorns nestle into the gravel. So, the dog and I scoured the neighborhood and had much better luck.

For my first forray into making acorn flour, I only collected about four cups of acorns. I wanted to test the process out before I really went wild.

Four cups of flour, nine days of leeching tannins, three hours of dehydrating, and one minute of processing later and I have about 3/4 cup of acorn flour. Thanksgiving morning I plan to turn that four into some acorn flour cakes!

Making acorn flour

So here is what you do:

making acorn flour

First, collect the acorns. Look for holes in them. The ones with holes housed a little worm. They’re no good (and be prepared to encounter a few of the worms when your hulling them. It goes with the territory).

To get the nut meat out of the hull, I used a carpenter’s chisel. You could use a knife, but my hands are small and I had visions of losing a finger. Instead, I held the nut steady with some pliers and chiseled off the hull. Once I got in the swing of it, it was easy. I only encountered two worms, but both times they startled me. They kind of pop out as soon as you break the hull. They look like white fluff balls. Ick.

As you free the nuts, immediately put them in a bowl of water because they start oxidizing. This also begins the tedious tannins leeching process.

making acorn flour

Once the nuts were done, I coarsely chopped them in my Vitamix. I decided to make flour my first time, rather than roasting the nuts. Acorns have a lot of tannins, so you have to leech them out. How long it takes depends on the variety of acorn. There are a couple of ways to do it, but everything I read said that if you’re making flour, you want to do a cold leeching (versus using boiling water). So, I put the nuts in a ball jar and filled it with water. Every morning for 9 days I changed the water until the water was nearly clear.

making acorn flour

Once the tannins have been leeched, you need to dry the nuts. I used my dehydrator and it took about three hours. You can also use the lowest setting on your oven.

The last part was the easiest. I just put the dried nuts in the dry container of the vitamix and about one minute later I had acorn flour!

I’m insanely excited about making acorn flour honey cakes for Thanksgiving breakfast. And if they taste good, I’ll be wandering back over to the big oak tree and getting some more nuts!


Persimmon Cream Recipe

persimmon cream recipe

Persimmon cream is a little bit of work to make, but totally worth the effort.

I can honestly say that persimmons are not a fruit I usually think about eating. I didn’t even really know that the Virginia persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) were edible, except that the deer really like them. But this year, the persimmon trees where Rick hunts are going insane! They are just bursting with fruit. So Saturday, Rick and I foraged for some persimmons with dreams of a delightful fruiting desert in our heads (we landed on a persimmon cream recipe). I only came back with a few scrapes. Alas, Rick got some poison ivy

persimmons

Virginia persimmons are smaller than the persimmons in the grocery store, but just as sweet.

Here are some things to know if you decide to forage for persimmons.

  1. When they drop to the ground, they kind of explode. It’s a messy business.
  2. They’re ready to eat when they are just shy of rotting (it’s called bleeting). This adds to the messiness.
  3. You can ripen them after harvesting.

We ended up with what I thought was a lot of persimmons. But when I got through the pulping process, I only had a little over a cup of fruit.

persimmon pulp

To make persimmon pulp, just press the persimmons through the colander. Easy.

To pulp persimmon, all you have to do is put the persimmons in a colander and press them through, as show in the picture here.

Persimmons pulped, it was time to make the persimmon cream. I love a recipe that only calls for three ingredients! The cream is from Trickling Springs Creamery and the honey is local, raw honey from Maryland.

This persimmon cream recipe caught my attention because it can be frozen and eaten like an ice cream. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve got six little cups of it in the freezer right now. I did, however, sample the cream…and then tried a few more samples. Light and airy and very complex. Totally delightful.

persimmon cream

A lovely bite of persimmon cream.

Recipe: Persimmon Cream

Summary: a light, yet complex fruit dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups persimmon pulp
  • 1 TBS raw honey
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

Instructions
making persimmon cream

  1. Make the persimmon pulp as show above. Puree it in the blender to smooth it out.
  2. Stir the honey into the persimmon puree.
  3. In another bowl, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.
  4. Fold the persimmon into the whipped cream.
  5. Eat immediately or freeze for later.

Variations

you can add more persimmon and/more honey according to taste. I don’t like desserts that are too sweet, so I go lighter on the honey.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 8

Copyright © Susan Rose.

 


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