Peanut butter is the pâté of childhood. – Florence Fabricant
|Homemade peanut butter. Long list of ingredients: peanuts. And a jar.|
Here’s one that I bet deep down inside you knew how to do. It’s how to make your own peanut butter. Yes, it’s as easy as it sounds. Grind nuts. Anything after that is purely to your own taste.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is a plant in the legume family probably first cultivated in Central and South America. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing to about 1-1/2’ tall. The “nuts” grow underground on the roots, much like potatoes.
|The peanuts go through stages. Stage 1, rough chopped.|
Despite how it looks it is not a nut at all, but is a bean. As such allergic reactions to peanuts does not necessarily mean a person is allergic to what are true “tree” nuts. More on that at the bottom of this post.
Peanuts, and undoubtedly peanut pastes, have been around for millennia. Peanut use has been documented to at least 3,000 years ago. The Incas used peanuts and were known to have made them into a paste.
From this side of the Atlantic, peanuts found their way to Africa via Spanish conquistadors, who also traded them with the American colonies. That's how they got their foothold in the USA. Actual commercial crops were established in Virginia and North Carolina by the first half of the 1800s.
By the late 1800s peanut butter-making machines had been patented. Dr. J.H. Kellogg patented a "Process of Preparing Nut Meal" in 1895 for use at his sanitarium. This is the Kellogg of cornflakes fame. He was a strange man. Look him up.
In 1932, Joseph L. Rosenfield began making a brand of peanut butter called “Skippy.” Skippy is still sold today.
Currently, half of all peanuts produced in the United States are used to make peanut butter and spreads.
|Stage 2, finer and beginning to look "wet."|
Peanut allergy is a food allergy distinct from nut allergies. It is a hypersensitivity reaction to substances in peanuts. It causes an overreaction of the immune system which in a small percentage of the population (0.4-0.6%) may lead to severe physical symptoms.
The most severe reaction can result in anaphylaxis, an emergency requiring immediate attention and treatment with epinephrine. Peanut allergies are treated by avoiding foods that contain peanuts or that have been produced in facilities that also process peanuts.
Can you be allergic to peanuts but not to tree nuts?
Yes. You can also be allergic to tree nuts but not to peanuts. Tree nut allergies can be as severe as peanut allergies.
Tree nuts belong to different families which are unrelated to each other – and tree nuts are not related to peanuts. However, some allergic individuals may be allergic to both peanut and tree nuts. Just to complicate things, people may be allergic to some (but not all) tree nuts. Almond seems to cause the least problems of all common tree nuts.
|Stage 3, a rough paste.|
If you’re worried about nut allergies you can have allergy tests performed by your doctor.
“Gourmet” peanut butters
If you wish you can make all kinds of flavoured peanut butters. Try adding nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom or even instant coffee or cocoa powder and brown sugar.
Imagine the oohs and aahs from anyone who receives a gift of beautiful, interesting specialty peanut butters. And they’re quite inexpensive to make if you buy your nuts at a bulk food store. Buy them there. Grocers seem to think peanuts are made of gold...
If you’re OK with eating peanuts, read on and make your own butter. There’s nothing in it but peanuts – no preservatives, stabilizers – completely natural. It’s easy and fun!
|Close to the end of processing it will look like peanut|
butter, a moving "paste" in the food processor.
Homemade Peanut Butter
Time: 5 minutes maximum | Yield: about 500ml
454g (1 lb) roasted peanuts, salted or not
1 tbsp honey
Make sure your peanuts are roasted. It boosts the flavour of your end product. They can be salted or not. It’s your choice.
Put the peanuts in a food processor and turn it on. The peanuts will go through some identifiable stages.
First the peanuts will go to a coarse grind.
As you process the coarseness will disappear and it will start to turn to a sandy-like mixture that sticks together. It’s at this point many other recipes add additional oil. Don’t be tempted.
As it processes the butter will smooth out. Stop to scrape down the sides if necessary and feel it every so often for your desired smoothness.
When it is nearly ready it will look very smooth. Stop and add the honey, or other flavourings.
If you stop now you will have a soft peanut butter. If you keep going for a (very) short time the butter will firm up a little. That choice is up to you.
You’ll notice the butter is a little warm from all the grinding. That was an interesting little discovery.
Since homemade peanut butter has no preservatives it is necessary to keep it on the refrigerator.
BUT you’ll rest comforted in the knowledge that your peanut butter has none of the hydrogenated oils or preservatives of commercial brands.
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