My husband and I enjoy a good drink now and then, and we tend to favor the old classics – Old Fashions, Manhattans, Gimlets, etc.
One of the key ingredients for an Old Fashion is the Angostura bitters. I love bitters, so I tend to add an extra dash (or twelve!) to my drink for that bold punch. There are a lot of other versions of bitters out there, for example we started using cranberry bitters in cocktails – delicious!
In pondering the many varieties of bitters, and looking to create our own homestead signature drink, my husband wondered aloud one day if we could use the acorns. Last year we had an extremely abundant acorn crop, and we really wanted to use them for something.
So we loaded a gallon bucket, shelled away and got the nuts soaking away in a mason jar. The result was amazing! The acorn bitters were tannic, with a woody, nutty flavor that worked so well. We used up that little jar in no time, and realized we needed to make more.
So what are bitters? Bitters are simple – it’s an alcohol that had been infused with the flavors of one or more ingredients. You could really use any alcohol base that you want, for our first batch we used gin, simply because it was what we had on hand. In the past we have used grain alcohol, and for our most recent batch we used vodka. Making bitters is easy, and doesn’t take more than 5 minutes, not including preparation of whatever product you’re using to infuse flavor of course. Shelling the acorns took about a half hour for me.
DIY: Acorn Bitters
- Harvest your acorns: Do this early in the season, to ensure you get the best quality acorns. You don’t want to wait too long, and end up with more rotten acorns than good. I recommend just filling a bucket, and sorting through them later. It’s much easier to sort from a comfy chair, than to be tediously selecting them from the forest floor.
- Sort your Acorns: Choose nuts that are free of holes, are firm and shiny, and haven’t begun sprouting.
- Put your acorns out on a tray (indoors!) to dry. This step is optional, but I found the acorns were much easier to crack open, and the nut separated from the shell with less picking if the nuts had time to dry out a little. We didn’t do this the first time though, and I just used the prongs on a corn cob holder to dig any hard to get nuts out of their shells. Shelling will definitely go faster if they have time to dry out, however.
- Once the acorns have had time to dry, get cracking! I sat outside watching out maple syrup boil and cracked our acorns. Since you won’t be eating the nuts, don’t worry if you get a little shell in your bowl of nuts. It’ll only add a little more tannins to the bitters, so don’t stress about being perfect!
- Once you’re done shelling, fill a mason jar half way with acorns, and then fill the remaining space with your chosen liquor.
- Place the jar in a cool, dark place (your refrigerator is a great spot), for 6-8 weeks. Shake the jar occasionally, and I do recommend tasting here and there after 4 weeks to see how the flavor is developing.
- Once the acorn flavor is as prominent as you like, strain the liquid into a new jar, and toss the acorns. Your acorn bitters are finished, and ready to use!
Not sure how to use your new bitters? Try making yourself a Woodford!
— (2) tablespoons acorn bitters
— 2) tablespoons homemade maple syrup (if you’re using commercial syrup, I’d start with only 1 tablespoon, and add to taste, otherwise it’ll probably be intolerably sweet)
— 2-oz whiskey
— 4-oz apple cider
–1/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients over ice, stir and enjoy!