“Peanut butter is the pâté of childhood.” Florence Fabricant
I’ve always been a fan of the peanut; in its natural state, shelled, crushed, or creamy…the peanut is pretty awesome. The good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tires, my grandmother’s peanut butter cookies are better than any I’ve ever tasted, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – a treat my mom & I use to share when I was little brings back memories. I can remember my grandfather had his own designated jar of roasted & lightly salted peanuts always stored in the cupboard. You’d know he had eaten peanuts because he’d smell like a giant peanut. Consumed alone or cooked into delightful dishes such as Chile Peanut Crusted Chicken with Napa Cabbage and Radish Slaw or Grape Leaves stuffed with Mozzarella, Dry Monterey Jack, Peanuts, and Raisins, or Caribbean style chicken with Brown Sugar Peanut Spice rub – I enjoy peanuts.
I can remember as a little girl, my mom and grandmother purchasing fresh made peanut butter at Country Sun or Mollie Stones. There was a peanut grinding machine near the ‘specialty foods’ area. You could place an empty container in the machine, press a button, and a few minutes later you’d have fresh – nothing but peanuts – peanut butter. It was pretty neat and how awesome was that – we ultimately made our own peanut butter. How I forgot that it was so simple. Those machines seem to have disappeared and a majority of what is left has too much ‘unhealthy’ oils, salts, fats, and other ingredients I wouldn’t ever try to pronounce.
A couple of months back I heard a news report on the radio that the peanut industry was in trouble. The DJs on the radio joked that peanut butter was going to become like gold; if you were a kid in school and got a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch…you must be rich! I looked into the subject a little deeper and found that demand couldn’t be met in the last couple of years due to contamination, land space, and costs of goods. Southeast Farm Press
Reading this article and understanding the different obstacles the industry and it’s consumers face, it seems like it is another consumption problem – too easy, too much, too often. Between the unwanted ingredients and the energy used to process, package, and ship the peanut item, I decided to refrain from purchasing peanut butter. I looked into local peanut options and was fortunate to find my local producer, Pinnacle Organics, grows and sells peanuts during the late fall and winter seasons.
Peanuts, from planting to harvest have a 120-150 day growing period. They are usually planted after the last frost and require a soil temperature of 65 degrees F for germination. A little over a month after planting, the peanuts will begin to flower, another couple of weeks and the roots will develop and penetrate the soil, and lastly the peanuts will mature over a 10 week period, staggered. The soil must be well-drained; loose and sandy. (iastate.edu)
For some reason I didn’t think of peanuts in a “seasonal” sense but like anything else that grows… it grows in a season. I’ve decided to try to manage peanut butter in our household like we do with anything else for preservation. For example, during the height of tomato season I would buy extra tomatoes and can them. This is so I would have tomatoes throughout the non-tomato season and I would not have to depend on the BPA lined cans of something that is supposed to resemble a tomato from the grocery store. Each week I visit the farm to get my produce I will buy extra peanuts and soak, roast, and grind them at home for our own peanut butter. A jar of fresh peanut butter will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 months and in the freezer in a freezer safe container for up to a year. If you’ve used oil to cream the peanuts, the oil will separate in the freezer. When you are ready to use, you must thaw the peanut butter completely – remix – and store in the refrigerator.
I won’t kid you… the process is not hard but it is time-consuming. Peanut butter is simply ground up peanuts. You can soak them in salt water and you can add a little oil for a smoother texture…but otherwise, it’s just peanuts…easy, right?! My husband and brother didn’t think so when I had them shelling peanuts for an entire morning; all to produce 2 pint jars of peanut butter that are now gone and we’re back to shelling again! I realize this process is not for everyone…afterall who has time to sit around shelling peanuts. For us its a matter of using things when they are in season, storing them for when they aren’t, and making sure we know what we’re consuming and were it’s come from…for that, I’ll spend time shelling a few peanuts.
How to Make Peanut Butter
- 1 pound peanuts, raw
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt (if you are using table salt, reduce to 1 cup)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil (you can use any oil…I prefer to use a light flavored olive oil)
- large pot for soaking + plate to keep peanuts submerged
- tray for drying
- food processor
- water for soaking
Place your peanuts in a strainer and rinse, removing as much surface dirt as possible. Drain. Place peanuts and salt in the soaking pot, cover with water till the peanuts are submerged. Stir. Cover the peanuts with a plate to make sure they stay submerged for the soaking duration. After 1 hour, remove the plate and stir the peanut salt water mixture. Cover and continue soaking. Do this every hour for at least 3 up to 5 hours. Drain.
Single layer the peanuts on a cookie sheet and place in the oven on WARM or the lowest temperature your oven will allow – this will speed up the drying process. If you don’t want to run your oven they can air dry overnight. Once dry, place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, tossing the peanuts throughout the cooking time to make sure they don’t burn.
Remove the peanuts from the oven and let cool. Once cool, the peanuts are ready for shelling. Make sure to remove the thin outer skin as well as the shell. The skins will make your peanut butter bitter.
Once shelled, they are ready to enjoy…but if you’re wanting peanut butter…place your peanuts in a food processor and process, while drizzling the oil in slowly.
The more oil, the smoother the texture. Process till you’ve found the consistency you like. This can take several minutes depending on how smooth you like your peanut butter. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 4 months or in the freezer for up to 1 year.