A Staple in My Diet
For almost 12 years, I ate half of a PB & J sandwich every day, 5 days a week. I was in charge of packing my own lunch from 1st-12th grade, and PB & J was my culinary specialty. Peanut butter was a favorite of mine, and my mother encouraged it as a protein source since I was picking out every minuscule bit of meat she added to family meals. (One too many rubbery bits in my chicken nuggets caused me to be a vegetarian during childhood.)
Growing up, I remember having the oil-on-top, sawdust-tasting, have-to-vigorously-stir-it-with-a-spoon-without-spilling-oil type of peanut butter in the fridge. This was for Dad. Nobody else touched it. The kids’ peanut butter in our house was creamy, sweet, lick-your-lips-good, and always embellished with some cartoonish picture to make us love it even more.
The problem with the tasty peanut butter from my childhood is that it (not so astonishingly) has some nasty added ingredients. When I look at the back of a peanut butter jar these days, I see the likes of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and other things that should never come near my PB & J. Even Natural Jif has to be called a “spread” because it only contains 90% peanuts. Imposter, I say!
Now the Peter Pan peanut butter label even has to boast, “NO high fructose corn syrup!” Why? Am I suppose to expect this ingredient to make an appearance in my peanut butter? Sad.
I eventually had to get real about peanut butter. And “real” does not include sugar, cartoonish pictures, or hydrogenated oils.
Peanut butter is still a part of my diet, and now I make my own delicious, creamy variety at home. I keep it simple… after all, it’s just peanut butter.
Peanut Butter Made Simple
All you need for a great peanut butter is peanuts. I know… it seems too simple, but that’s how it should be. Depending on your tastes, you can also add a little oil, a pinch of sea salt, or a bit of raw honey if you like yours sweetened.
Choosing Your Peanuts
Rule 1: Be particular about your peanuts. I recently looked at a container of peanuts innocently resting in our cupboard, thinking I would just find “peanuts and salt” under the ingredients. Instead, to my horror, the list of ingredients included things like monosodium glutamate (MSG!), sugar, maltodextrin, corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed soy protein, and other ingredients I was not prepared to see. (Just another example of how reading labels is a complete eye-opener!) The unopened peanuts were returned to the store on my next shopping trip… and I may or may not have gone on a short rant in front of the grocery store clerk when asked my “reason for returning.” (She was not amused by my peanut dissertation.)
Rule 2: Choose any type of peanut you are comfortable using. You may prefer organic, dry roasted, salted, unsalted, or the cheapest kind available. But again, I’m passing along the lesson I learned… CHECK THE INGREDIENTS. A container of dry roasted peanuts (or other variety) may have additives you are trying to avoid in your peanut butter. Purchasing bulk peanuts is usually cheaper, but check the ingredients on the bin to be sure you’re getting what you want.
How to make your own
To make your own peanut butter you will need:
- a high-speed blender (I use my VitaMix) or a food processor
- container for storing peanut butter
- 3 cups (24 oz.) peanuts (find organic, non-GMO nuts here)
- any additional items you may desire (honey, seeds, sea salt, oil, etc.)
*If using raw peanuts, it is necessary to add about 2 teaspoons of oil per cup of peanuts.
1. Dump peanuts and any other ingredients you are using into blender or food processor. Secure the lid.
2. Turn on machine and blend on highest setting until peanut butter begins to move freely through the blades.
VitaMix users: Push peanuts into blade using the plunger while blending. Stop processing when peanut butter begins flowing freely through blades and the high pitched motor sound changes to a lower pitched sound. In my VitaMix, I am careful not to process for more than 1 minute after butter begins flowing freely or the machine could overheat.
For food processors or blenders that do not have a plunger: You may need to stop the machine once or twice during blending to scrape down the sides. Continue blending until desired consistency is reached.
3. Stop machine, scoop peanut butter out of your machine with spatula and refrigerate in an airtight container. Yields about 2 cups. Refrigerated peanut butter will last several months.
- If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and roast your own peanuts to be made into peanut butter!
- Be sure to use peanuts that are as fresh as possible, or you might end up with an “old” peanut taste in your peanut butter.
- If you prefer crunchy peanut butter you will want to stop blending before it is moving freely through the blades of your machine.
- The color of the peanut butter will be different depending on the type of peanut used. (I say this so you don’t think there is something wrong with your peanut butter when it doesn’t look exactly like store-bought.)
So instead of processed, mass produced, commercial peanut butters, experiment with this simple recipe and let us know what you think!