When I was a kid, my all-time favorite book — and I mean all-time favorite — was a novel entitled My Side of the Mountain. I loved that book and I read it at least a dozen times. It’s the story of a boy named Sam — I think he was around twelve years old — who runs away from his New York City home and heads for the Catskill Mountains to live off the land. The book actually takes place in Delhi, NY, which is sixteen miles from my hometown of Walton.
Now Sam isn’t the typical runaway. He doesn’t hate his parents. He’s not in trouble with the law. And he is not being abused by his family. Sam just wants to be on his own and wants to live in the mountains
So he does.
And while surviving alone he hollows out the base of a tree to live in, raises a baby peregrine falcon that he trains to hunt for him, and has some other amazing adventures.
For food, Sam survives on the rabbits and squirrels that Frightful — Sam’s trained Falcon — brings him, as well as the occasional stolen deer that he would poach from the illegal hunters who shot them out of season. And of course, there were acorn pancakes. Sam lived on piles and piles of acorn pancakes.
Now, when I was a kid I asked my mother if we could make acorn pancakes, and she told me that this was impossible. She said that My Side of the Mountain was simply a story; you couldn’t make flour from acorns and therefore you couldn’t make pancakes from acorn flour.
I was heart broken. The author had lied to me! Everything else had seemed so real… Years later, when I had finally come to grips with forgiving author Jean Craighead George for her deception, I discovered that she was not the one lying. (Sorry, Mom!) There are acorn pancakes.
Acorn pancakes and acorn biscuits were actually a staple of the Native American meal. Acorns hold some valuable proteins and carbohydrates and also hold a good deal of saturated fats. In the modern world they are fun to collect, fun to process, and add a unique nutty flavor that can’t be found anywhere else.
How to Make Acorn Pancakes
Gather. The first step is to collect your acorns, and the rule of thumb here is to harvest a third more than you need. The acorns should be perfect specimens — if they are rotten or have been infiltrated by bugs, they can’t be used.
- You need to crack the acorns and get to the meat. This is where you’ll do your final inspection. If the nuts are dark, chipped, or look as if bugs have gotten in, chuck them.
- A coffee grinder works well for this. You don’t want to get the acorn meal down to a flour consistency, but more like the consistency of ground coffee beans.
Wash. If you were to taste the acorn meal right now you would notice one thing: it’s horrible. That’s because it’s loaded with tannins. Native Americans would take the acorns and fill them in baskets and leave them in streams. It’s difficult to get this tannin out, but crucial. The method I’ve found that works the best is using a stocking. Take a stocking and fill it with the acorn meal. Tie it off and run it under cold water, all the time kneading the stocking. You’ll need to do this several times — a dozen or so — to make sure the tannins are all out. A good way to check is to taste the water that comes out of the meal you are rinsing. If it’s clear and has no taste, you’re good.
Some people bake the acorn meal, but I find this gives it a more bitter taste. Just spread it out and let it dry.
Now, there is no yeast in acorn meal so it is best used to add into other meals — I like using buckwheat flour or corn meal. This gives it a unique nutty and sweet flavor.
Knowing how to make acorn pancakes is not a mission critical skill to possess. It’s not up there with being able to change your tire or tie a tie. But it’s a fun thing to do with your kids as a fall project or as just a very creative way to zest up foods.