Wild Acorn Coffee
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Before going freelance earlier this year, I used to work at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, an archaeological research site specialising in ancient houses, rare breed animals and prehistoric crops. We used to hear all kinds of theories about how our ancestors lived, including the idea that, before we were able to import coffee beans, the ancient Britons used to make coffee out of acorns. Ever eager to experiment, I thought I’d give it a try!
These acorns were gathered from an English oak at that hazy moment between the end of summer and beginning of autumn. First, I boiled the acorns in water for 15 minutes to release the tannins, a bitter tasting acid found in some plants. There is a more authentic way to do this, by burying the acorns in the ground over winter so the tannins leach out into the soil, but I’m ashamed to say I favoured the fifteen-minute method.
The end product was surprisingly tasty - perhaps the best word is ‘earthy’. We added the fresh grounds to a cafetière, waited for it to brew, and then poured it out with a dash of warm milk. We decided that coffee was still a more flavoursome drink, but this would certainly be better than no coffee at all. In the end we sipped away every last drop.
This was a really fun and easy way to kick off the autumn foraging season, and a humble reminder never to take my freshly ground Peruvian coffee for granted.
For more tips and recipes on cooking with wild food, you can buy a copy of my first book Food You Can Forage here.
RECIPE: WILD ACORN COFFEE
A few handfuls of fresh, whole acorns with ‘hats’ discarded
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Place the acorns in boiling water for 15 minutes to leach out the bitter-tasting tannins. Drain and rinse under fresh, cold water.
3. Remove the skins from the acorns, which should come away more easily now they have been boiled. Discard skins.
4. Place peeled, boiled acorns into a roasting tray and pop into the oven for 35-40 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to make sure they are not burning. If they are, slightly reduce the heat. The acorns should reach a lovely dark colour - just like coffee! - but without the smell of burning.
5. Remove roasted acorns from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then add them to a pestle and mortar. Grind the acorns by hand until they are loose and powdered - they don’t have to be perfectly fine, just as close to the texture of loose ground coffee as you can get. This may also work in a food processor but I don’t currently have one so can’t give specific instructions, sorry!
6. Once ground to your preference, add to a cafetière and drink like normal coffee. I added a dash of oat milk for extra sweetness. Enjoy!