From Acorns to Pine Nuts


We gathered on the beach, south of Crescent City. It was 1969 and as a Cub Scout I was one of the few to attend. It’s where Kitty Harriman, a Redwood Empire Council leader, and native Tolowa, taught us how to make acorn cakes. She had with her a large burlap sack filled with shelled and dried acorns, ready for grinding and leaching and number of large woven baskets and several boards.

First we crushed, then ground the acorns to a powder, then put it in the baskets. Next, she showed us how to remove the bitter taste, using water taken from the nearby ocean. This took some time, but once done and while the acorn meal was moist, we formed our cakes.

Meanwhile, she cleared an area in the bottom of fire we’d built earlier, laid large leaves down, placed our patties on them, covering them with more leaves, followed by hot coals. A few minutes later, we retrieved them and ate.

Since then I’ve made cakes while camping, using pine nuts instead. While pine nuts don’t require leaching, do take time to shell and dry. This is my recipe, which works for both the field and kitchen:

2/3 cup finely ground pine nut meal
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup milk (more for batter)
1 tablespoon honey (more if you like them sweeter)
3-4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Fold the dry ingredients together. Mix in the egg, milk, and honey, then beat, while pouring in melted butter. If you like your mixture to be the consistency of pancake batter, add more milk. Spoon or pour the batter into a hot, greased pan or griddle. Bacon grease and a cast iron pan are my favorite. Cook each cake until brown on both sides. Eat them plain or with your favorite syrup or jelly. Personally, I love blackberry jam.

Don’t forget the coffee!

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