Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Taste of Fall

Over the last few weeks Katrina and I have been benefitting from the fruits of our autumn labors.  Processing and leaching acorns has become a weekly ritual and we have been enjoying our canned, frozen, dried, and fermented fruits.  Today I finished leaching another batch of Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) acorns.  I saved the leaching water each day after I poured it off so that I could compare the water color over the course of the 6 changes of water.  As you can see, the water from the 1st day is significantly darker than the 2nd day, which in turn is significantly darker than the 3rd.  Thereafter, however, the difference is barely perceptible.  For the last 3 months I have been grinding my acorns with a Vitamix instead of my old pathetic blender and the Vitamix is producing finer flour.  I was in the habit of leaching for 5 or 6 days, but that might not be necessary anymore.  Based on the color of my leaching water, I will experiment with only three changes of water next time. 

Acorn bread cooking
After months of enjoying the ease of dry-grinding acorns with the Vitamix, today I decided to mix things up a bit and experimented with wet-grinding acorns.  When I was dry-grinding acorns the flour would heat up and get clumpy, preventing the flour from freely circulating throughout the blender container.  Not only was this keeping me from getting a really fine grind, I think that prematurely heating the acorns may have caused the oils to leach out more easily, damaging both flavor and nutrition of the final product.  Today when I used water while grinding acorns, I created a suspension of acorn flour and grit.  I noticed that in this suspension it was easier for the large particles of acorn grit to settle through the acorn flour to the bottom of the mixer where they were pulverized by the spinning blade.  Water also keeps the flour nice and cool throughout the grinding process.

These past few weeks I have also put the blender to work making delicious wild berry smoothies that are a perfect balance of creamy, sweet, tart, and chewy.  If you have never had a chewy smoothie, you’ve got to try it.  Here is the recipe for my new favorite smoothie:
1 Banana (for creaminess)
 ¾ cup frozen Evergreen Huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum)
¼ cup dried Salal (Gaultheria shallon) berries (for chewiness)
¼ cup water
1 heaping tablespoon Blue Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea) jelly
If you don't have Salal, try substituting dried blueberries or cranberries.

Canned Crabapples (Malus fusca) and Crabapple cider
We recently cracked open our first quart of this year’s Crabapples (Malus fusca).  After several months resting in very light syrup, I found the sourness of the Crabapples had mellowed to a pleasant pucker.  We sucked them right off the stems like applesauce popsicles.  A few days ago Katrina bottled some cider that she made with a mixture of Crabapple juice and apple cider that we pressed last fall.

Katrina working her magic

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