Post #605 It’s Called Peanut Butter

October 21, 2018 at 3:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There’s a love-hate relationship with peanut butter.  You either love it or you hate it.  I’ve read article headlines that seem to claim the ability to like peanut butter is written in your DNA.  I’m not certain about that, but I know that I both like peanut butter and despise peanut butter.  How can that be?, you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.

Like most people, I grew up eating PBJs.  My mom was never too worried about school work as long as we passed each grade.  She thought our time was better spent playing in the fresh air and eating peanut butter sandwiches.  I still eat peanut butter sandwiches.  The only way I like my PBJ now is two slices of bread that match when they close (my little brother laughs heartily every time he sees this), only smooth peanut butter spread not too thickly and not too thinly edge to edge, and ice cold grape jam spread thinly edge to edge.  And don’t bother to cut those puppies, and leave those crusts on.  That’s the only way I will eat peanut butter.

Oh!  And I like these things:

But that’s likely mostly to do with the chocolate.

So, don’t hand me a cracker with peanut butter on it.  Don’t try to tempt me with a warm peanut butter cookie.  Throw that spoonful of peanut butter you’re trying to entice me to eat to the dogs.  It just won’t work.  I don’t like peanuts much either.

I like most nuts, but there are two I won’t touch unless forced to.  One is the peanut, the other is the almond.  I once got into a conversation with a flight attendant on a trip where we discusses the curiosities of the nuts people leave behind.  Apparently, more people don’t eat their almonds than I realized.  It seems to be a universally enjoyed nut.  And in the 70s, you couldn’t get a jar of mixed nuts that wasn’t mostly peanuts due to their low cost.

I will eat crushed peanuts in Asian foods like Pad Thai.  And I’ll eat almonds when I can’t get away with spitting them out.  It’s not the flavors I mind; it’s the fact they exist.  It’s weird, I know, and I have no rational explanation.  I just don’t like them.

So, what’s all this got to do with peanut butter?  Since I seem to be rambling.  Well, I ran across that old ad a few days ago, and it sent me on the path of reminiscing about a Christmas in upstate New York, very near to where we’re at now.

At that time, I was in second grade.  Everybody wanted this.  My latent cooking skills were just starting to emerge.  Remember, this is about the time my dad started to teach me how to make the family’s popcorn using that suicidal electric contraption that I still can’t believe was ever sold legally.  Easy Bake Ovens were all the rage and I wanted one of those, too, but it was a girl’s toy so I never got one.

A Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker was something everyone could enjoy.  So the three of us begged and pleaded and it magically appeared under our tree that year.  We were so excited.

The commercial made it look so easy.  You set the contraption up, poured some peanuts in a hopper, turned away at the handle, and peanut butter appeared, after some time, coming out the other side of his head.  What we learned was that the stuff that came out the other side of his head only appeared after a long, laborious amount of time, and was pretty grainy.  We also learned that if we put the results through the process again, it got a little smoother, but it would never reach the true creamy smooth stage we got in jar.

And there was only enough peanut butter to make one small sandwich.  So to make it fair, we spread it on crackers and each had a couple.  We pronounced it good, and went to the kitchen to make real PBJs cuz it was lunchtime and we were hungry.  That was the only time we ever used it because it was a bitch to clean so I don’t think we ever did.  You can guess what it looked like the next time we looked at it.

Now that I’m older (way older, but that’s enough about that)(Sheesh, more than half a century since that Christmas!) I got to wondering about making peanut butter at home.  There are stores you can go to where you can make your own nut butters out of any nuts they sell.  I’ve been to craft festivals and farmer’s markets where you can get almond butter, walnut butter, peanut butter, pecan butter, sesame butter (tahini), sunflower seed butter, ad infinitum and any blend you want made as you watch.  I’ve never tried them, but people I know who have eaten them say they’re good.  But for a good home version, what do you do?

Turns out, it’s not so hard.  It can be made with one simple ingredient, but can also be made with up to four.

The first ingredient is peanuts.  Let’s talk about those.  There are many varieties of peanuts and I’m not going to go into that now.  But the primary thing about the peanut when being used in peanut butter is they must not be raw.  Have you ever eaten a raw peanut?  It’s pretty good.  It has a naturally sweet flavor to it, and doesn’t taste overwhelmingly like peanuts.  However, don’t use raw peanuts to make peanut butter.  The result is . . . well, kind of gross.  Use roasted peanuts, or boiled.  Roasting tastes better, but it’s up to you.  That’s if you’re starting with raw peanuts.  Mostly you won’t be.  So use peanuts that have already been cooked, whether it’s roasting or boiling.  The skins on the peanuts need to be taken off completely.  If you’re using roasted or boiled peanuts, go the extra step and get them skinless, too.

The second ingredient is salt.  This is entirely up to you.  Most commercial brands use a little salt simply because it tastes good.  You make that call.  But be careful.  Once you put salt in, you cannot take it out.  Salt can be added at any point during the process.  You can even use roasted and salted peanuts.

The third ingredient is oil.  Now this is totally optional except Alton Brown suggests using it, and nearly all the commercial brands use it.  Mostly it’s peanut oil, but it can be other types.  It’s used as an emulsifier to make the peanut butter smoother and creamier, and to stay together better.  But, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.  You decide based on the finished product.

The final ingredient is sugar.  Odd, isn’t it?  We put salt in for flavor, but we don’t use sugar for that, although if you use too much, you’ll certainly know it.  The commercial brands use more or less of sugar and all for the same reason.  When you make peanut butter, it tends to be kind of liquid-y, and sugar helps bind it together.  Some brands use a sugar syrup, but that’s not a consideration for us since the amount you’d use is so small as to be almost negligible.

So!  There’s the ingredients.  I already knew all those from my Mr. Peanut from decades ago.  Now the process.

Before I started researching it, I assume the first peanut butter was made by pounding the peanuts with a rock, or a mortar and pestle.  A reasonable assumption based on how flour was first produced, and how seeds and grains were first processed.  And there is some evidence that a form of peanut butter was made by the ancient Aztecs a bazillion years ago through a process of boiling and pounding.  However, peanut butter as we know it wasn’t made until the mid-1800s, far passed the “pounding with a rock” stage.  Interesting fact, peanut butter wasn’t created by George Washington Carver as most people assume due to his experiments and articles about the peanut.  It was first made by Marcellus Edson in Canada.  And he milled it, meaning he used a grind stone, of sorts, to mill the peanuts into a paste.

So, since pounding wasn’t going to be involved, and simply breaking down the peanuts by machine was the way to go, my nimble brain immediately latched onto the food processor.  Bingo!  According to all the recipes that are reputable, a food processor is the perfect machine to make peanut butter.  If you don’t have one, you can use a strong blender.  So here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, salted or not, skins OFF
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, optional
  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil, optional
  • 1-3 tablespoon sugar, optional

Place the peanuts in the bowl of the food processor with the processing blade intact.  Process steadily for two minutes.  Unplug the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Plug the machine in and process for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Unplug the machine, and taste the product.  If using, add salt, sugar, and oil by halves to control flavor.  Finish processing correct taste has been reached for one more minute.  Unplug machine, scrape peanut butter into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.  Store in fridge for up to three months.  Considered rancid when it emits a sour smell.  NOTE:  If using a blender, be certain to scrape unprocessed peanuts from the bottom of the blender.

Roughly crushed peanuts can be stirred into the finished product to achieve a “crunch” texture.

So!  Home made butter, home made peanut butter.  Wonder what I’m going to “home made” next?

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2 Comments »

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  1. I don’t mind peanut butter, but it just doesn’t do it for me. I love peanuts. I dig those Reese’s Cups. But like you, I don’t care for Peanut Butter cookies at all. And I won’t even GO NEAR a PB&J. I don’t know what it is but that combo, to my taste buds, it’s NASTY.
    I tried one last year to see if my opinion had changed since I was a kid but NOPE…still gross. And I’ll eat darned near anything.

    • I’ve seen you eat darn near everything. Glad I never brought PBJs on any of our hikes. Sue liked peanut butter so much she’d scoop it out of the jar with her finger and eat it. Like I said, two ways, no other. I have no desire to make my own except as an intellectual challenge. Good to hear from you!


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