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Acorn Flour
For Writers


Acorn Flour

by Sarah Lapallo

One day, it was a nice fall day, I realized that I had nothing better to do with my time than make acorn flour for my mom. Don’t believe me? Read on...

In the book my mom wrote, Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky, she had Joan, Temperance, and Maggie (three women struggling to survive in the Virginia wilderness) making acorn flour to add to the slowly dwindling supply of food. Mom thinks that this is how they survived through that first terrible winter in Jamestown.

She researched acorn flour, and in her book she wrote about how Joan, Tempie, and Maggie gathered the acorns, shelled them, boiled them, milled them, and ate them.

“It would be neat,” Mom said that morning, “to actually try to make acorn flour, don’t you think?

“Sure.” I said warming up to the idea, “We could try to do it just like Joan did!”

“Well,” she said, “I’m so busy, why don’t you and Kerry do it?”

Being homeschooled, my little sister Kerry and I got out of school that day to try our hand at surviving the winter.

Boy. That was some adventure...


STEP ONE: Gathering the acorns

It took me about ten minutes, but in Mom’s book the women would gather all day. She said they could get about a bushel an hour.

At first, I had trouble finding the acorns
(beween the squirrels and the dog!) but Mom found a ton in the back yard.

If only I had known that was the easy part.





STEP TWO: Pulling the meat out of the shells

This step only took about about 45 minutes but it felt a lot longer.First we poured the nuts into a bowl of water, and the ones that floated we pulled out and threw away becuase that meant that the bugs had hollowed them out.

  acornsAcorns are heavy and solid and most of them sunk.

Then, using a mortar and pestle, I cracked the acorns and passed them to Kerry to shell.

“This is mind-numbing,” Kerry said after 20 minutes of tedious work.

And it was. By the time we were done, we both had blisters and acorn shells up our nails.
  STEP THREE: Cooking off the brown acid

In this next step we were supposed to add water to the acorns and boil them. The point was to cook out the tannic acid which gave the nuts a very bitter taste. But first, I had to “coarsely grind” them. Even that step was more difficult than I could have suspected.
Then came boiling them. I groan just thinking about it.

My first guess was this would take about an hour. The real amount of time? Four days. We’d boil them three or four times and when we got tired we would just let them soak in luke-warm water. Later, we’d feel guilty and come back to it. I think that soaking the acorns as much as we did soaked out the “sweet, nutty taste” we were supposed to have.

The first time I put the nuts on to boil, I figured I could leave them there to just, you know, simmer. Bad Idea.

They scorched, and it smelled like burnt coffee. I thought I had ruined them but as it turned out, boiling and draining them as many times as we did cleaned out the burnt taste. My skin was saved. My sister and I took the attitude of, “We just can’t mess this up! We’ve worked too hard already!”
acornsFrom Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky
by Connie Lapallo © 2006

Tempie and I scurried back to the house to find Maggie rinsing yesterday’s finds. She had a bowl filled with water on the table and was swishing acorns around in it.

On a piece of muslin lay the ones she had already washed. A kettle of acorns boiled over a fire that also warmed the autumn chill from the cottage. Janey stood beside her on the stool, helping.

Maggie glanced up as we came in, her round face lit in a smile. A strand of hair drooped across her eyes. She brushed it away with the back of a wet hand, but it tumbled down again.

“Happy hunting?” she asked. Before I could reply, Janey ran over to me, throwing her arms around my waist.

I set my basket down quickly to scoop her up, kissing her cheek.

“Walnuts and ’corns!” she said, peering over my shoulder into the basket.

I laughed at her child’s enthusiasm, for this was essentially what we brought each time. I let her choose a few to play with.

We had comfort in our routine, even as the politics left us uneasy. In the mornings, two of us scoured the woods and river’s edge, while one stayed behind to watch Janey. The one at home fetched water from the well, tidied the cottage and prepared whatever provisions we received from the Company Store.

She also tended the previous day’s sorting, rinsing, boiling, grinding, and drying, and did as much acorn preparation as possible. The rest we finished in the evenings.

Acorns in various stages of the process were stored in the cellar. They kept well and we reckoned we had the whole winter to continue working on them
  Don't believe that three women
could survive on acorns for a whole winter???

quote Of 500 [people] within 6 months after [my] departure, there remained not past 60 men, women and children, most miserable and poor creatures; and those preserved for the most part, by roots, herbs, acorns, walnuts, berries, and now and then a little fish.quote
-John Smith

What John Smith just said was those who survived took care of themselves and prepared for the winter by gathering all kinds of things... like acorns.

  acornsSTEP FOUR: Making acorn flour from the cleaned acorns

The last step was grinding the boiled acorns into a “fine” powder. By the time I got to that step I was a little tired of the whole ordeal and didn’t smash the acorns maybe as much as I could have...
  By far, the step which was the most fun is this last one—Turning the acorn flour into bread. I looked online for some recipes, but so far I haven’t tried any of them (and if you know me, I probably won’t). I tried to make bread with the ingredients that Joan, Tempie, and Maggie would’ve had, which is basically just cornmeal, acorn flour, and water. I also added yeast, even though I’m not sure if they had that or not. If you click the link below you can see some pictures of the finished bread, recipes, and find out what Mom thought of it!
Thanks for reading this page, and if you try making acorn flour yourself, Click here for some photos and recipes and please email Mom from her Contacts page and let me know how it turns out!






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