We made peanut butter today. It was fantastic and made us feel part-scientist, part-little kid. (That’s the best kind of feeling, no?)
Some background: Sean is mad about peanut butter. Specifically, Skippy creamy peanut butter. Back in the States, he would buy peanut butter by the 48-ounce twin-pak—that’s two 48-ounce jars—otherwise purchased only by families of six on their monthly stock-up grocery trip. It would last 2 weeks, max. He’d smear it on toast, on fruit, or on a spoon. (He’d have it on earth, in space, or on the moon. He would eat it here and there. He would eat it anywhere!)
As for me, I’ve always enjoyed it on bread with jam or honey, but tended to avoid it in recent years due to its swoon-inducing nutrition facts and my mom’s prophesies of acne breakouts and a lifetime of having to suck in my stomach for photos. (PB or not, those things remain in my life.) Since moving to Shanghai, though, and discovering that any decent jam is imported and thus budget-breaking, I’ve turned to spreading on my toast Skippy creamy (which is surprisingly unexpensive, as it’s manufactured within the country, compared with Jif, which can only be found in expat supermarkets at 3 times the price) and a squeeze or two of honey instead.
Which makes that two peanut-butter admirers under one roof. And, as of today, two Skippy fans who’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (thanks, Iris!), which made us realize how bad hydrogenated vegetable oil is. And packaged food is. And that that stuff is in, and is, Skippy.
Not that we immediately resolved to cut it out, of course. Our bonds had become too strong. But it did somehow, directly or otherwise, inspire Sean to suggest that we try making our own peanut butter. I laughed. Make our own peanut butter?! Why, that’s absurd!
…So we got started after dinner. A quick online search showed that it was actually quite simple.
We started with two packs of roasted peanuts, which came to 2 cups. To my dismay, the roasted peanuts we found at our local supermarket turned out to contain the following ingredients: peanuts, vegetable oil, salt, MSG, plus some other preservatives. Bar-style peanuts. So much for going natural and unprocessed… oh well, that just means it’ll taste good, right?
We dribbled in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and got a’blendin’. Half the peanuts transformed at once into grainy clumps.
Our blender was about the cheapest on the market with nary an on-off switch. For fear it’d explode in flames, we stopped it every 20 seconds or so to let it rest and to scrape the blades free.
The initial transformation seemed to be a fluke. More than five minutes into this process, it was still a chunky mass with whole peanuts peeking out at the top.
But looking down while the machine was on, we observed a slow but sure circular movement. We watched with giddy anticipation.
10 minutes later, a definite paste had formed, though it was still fairly chunky. A sheepish grin spread over Sean’s face. “I know I didn’t put on a shirt ’til 6pm today, but somehow I still feel accomplished.”
We could barely contain our excitement. Seeing the stuff go from whole peanuts to a smooth paste was like watching magic.
A couple more blasts on the blender and we were done. The end result: one cup of peanut butter that was warm, soft, and super-spreadable.
As I scooped the contents into an empty jar, Sean slipped some bread in the toaster. We licked the blender clean while we waited. Mmm.
Here it is on a piece of whole-wheat bread, with a drizzle of honey on top:
The texture was divine. The flavours were… a little MSG-y, to tell the truth, which masked the typical aroma we come to expect from peanut butter. Because of this, I’d consider this a peanut butter more to be eaten from a spoon than in a sandwich.
Satisfying as it was, I’m not sure we’re going to make a complete switch to this stuff at the moment, seeing as we have less-than-ideal peanuts. But if and when we do get our hands on some roasted peanuts sans flavourings/preservatives, or find out how to roast the tub of fresh peanuts sitting in the apartment… watch out, Skippy!
I know it’s nothing new—just google “homemade peanut butter” and you’ll find site after site with (similar) recipes and better pics than I’ve got here. But people—and by people I mean my friends and family, many of whom cook, bake, make their own hummus or granola, and so forth—don’t often think of PB as something they can make on their own, easy though it is. Yeah, it’s more time-consuming than picking up a jar on your next grocery trip, not necessarily cheaper (though probably more cost-effective compared to your “natural” peanut butters), and not necessarily healthier if you’re using the peanuts we got—but if you’ve got a blender and a taste for PB and adventure, I urge you to try it. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s the little things in life.