Pão de bolota
The acorn is one of the main products of the montado, the most traditional Portuguese agroforestry system, characterized by an evergreen, but sparse vegetation, used mainly for agricultural and pastoral production. Its main tree species are oak, particularly cork oak (in Portugal grow 33% of the world’s cork oaks) and holly oak. The montado covers about 800’000 hectares, most of it in the south of the country, the Alentejo.
Acorn, fruit of different types of the Quercus genus, was once commonly used not only for feeding animals (especially pigs) but also humans, as historical texts show. Even Strabone (58 b.C. – 25 a.C.) wrote: “in the fourth part of the year the Lusitanic people are left with nothing but acorns to make bread”.
Once toasted and ground in stone mills, acorn flour was, in combination with wheat and corn flour, used for breads or polenta. An ancient milling technique uses wheat, corn and acorns, grinding them together in oval mills with granite millstones.
The acorns are harvested in autumn, between late October and November. The different types have different nutritional values, but they can generally be divided in sweet or bitter acorns. The sweet ones can be consumed raw, boiled or roasted.
In acorn bread production – which is now very rare, so it is difficult to find it on the market – the content of acorn flour (milled not too finely) should make up 25% of the dough. It is mixed with wheat flour, yeast, and a bit of salt. The leavening takes about two hours, after which it is baked in the oven for approximately 75 minutes.
In Alentejan tradition, the acorn is not only used for bread production, but also soups, sweets and even liqueurs or coffee.