I am quite sure that deep within a child’s biology, they are finely tuned into seeking out what would sustain them in nature. Except that these days, they can readily access things that mimic high calorie nutrient dense foods, such as deep fried instead of what would be much better option like nuts.
Most nut butter, including peanut butter is packed full of life giving and brain building fats, protein, minerals and fiber, they are really very nutritious for kids and adults alike in the right amounts.
However we must make a clear difference here. I am talking about the homemade stuff not the ones on the shelf with the smiling cartoon character.
Commercial ones that are available right now in Beijing are the wrong kind. Main problem with them is that they have been hydrogenated. An industrial process guaranteed to keep that jar of peanut butter last longer on the your shelf than lipstick. Hydrogenation of plant fats literally twists its molecular structure around so much that it is almost unrecognizable to the body. The multitude of studies in the last few years associating increased health risks with consuming trans fats, meant that consumers forces have forced food manufacturers to include their trans-fat info in their nutrition labeling… which btw may not be a true reflection of the trans-fat amounts in the food product. Not going into that that here.
Back to commercially made peanut butter, you can end up with way too much salt, preservatives and possibly even the occasional bug bits in that convenient jar of ultra smooth goodness. So really, the convenience of buying a jar just does not seem that appealing anymore.
Ok. Sold on making your own?
It’s real easy.
- Got Oven?
- Yes? Great.
- No Oven? Got large frying pan? Wok? That will work too!
- Got high-powered blender/food processor?
- Yes? The force is with you.
- No? Beg, borrow or visit your nearest Chinese electro mart or Taobao. If it can crush ice cubes, you are good.
- Rubber spatula?
- Yes? Good stuff. nice for getting the last bits out to lick off rather than shredding fingers doing it.
- No? Metal spoon works too… You just get a less clean scraping job and it all gets rather clinky on glass blender jugs.
- 500g raw peanut with skin (see footnotes re skin)
- What no additional oil?? No, it’s not necessary when you got a good machine. Really.
Spread nuts on your baking tray. Evenly please. No oil needed. Roast 20 mins in 180C/350F.
Ovenless in Beijing? dry fry in your wok with no oil. Medium heat. Keep stirring till skin looks dark brown
ALWAYS check and keep and eye on the nuts. They go from fine, fine, fine then burned pretty darn quick.
Oven performances vary, check your oven every 5 mins. If you are knitting in the next room and smell the nuts, they have are most likely burnt.
How to tell if they are ready, especially with the skins on? Open the oven a bit and if you detect roasted nut smells, its ready. Its ok if the skin gets quite dark (just not charred). Take them out to cool cos they will continue to cook for a bit once out of the oven.
Once reasonably warm (helps oils release easier), but not stone cold. Pop them with skins on into your machine. You might have to experiment a bit with how much to put in. Start with a cup first. My blender takes only a 1/3 fill max, at any one time. I’ve tried more, but all I got was an uneven grind and had pull out the excess to make in a separate batch.
Give them a little whirl. At first you will get a loose powder. Give it a whirl a bit more and oils will start releasing from the mixture. Now you got lumps because of the initial bit of oil released. This is the annoying stage and patience is needed. You need to scrape down the sides, blend a bit and then scrape again. And again and again…you get the picture.
WAIT for the &^%$ machine to stop before scraping (especially blender users out there), last thing you want is shards of your spatula in all your hard work…or worse.
Then as you get more oils released and the mixture looks more like peanut butter now. You can probably get the blender to spin a bit longer without air getting trapped in the blade well. This is when you can add your salt to taste. You won’t get super smooth peanut butter like the jarred version, but that’s not the point of this whole exercise is it?
And there you go. Country style peanut butter.
STORE: Does not last long in my household so I just stick it on the shelf next to the olive oil and balsamic. Store in fridge to reduce oil separation and to be sure oils don’t go rancid.
On to the eatin
- Don’t wolf it just because it is healthy. Temptation is great to do so. Resist.
- Balanced by eating with something in the form of fruit or vegetable. Try:
- Spreading it in the curve of a cut celery. Got a kids party and no nut allergies in the invite list? 1.5” of celery with nut butter with raisins studded on them make them look like boats and their passengers. And if you are so inclined, oven toasted corn tortilla make fine sails.
- Spread on apple halves or quarters help you stay satiated longer
- On whole grain rye crackers plus cucumbers or cherry tomatoes slices
- Cook with it. Used in some dishes it helps fortify certain stews. Try this vegan African peanut stew.
- Variations: Almonds add a sweetness. Walnuts increases it Omega-3 potential. Try putting some cinnamon and nutmeg to make it more grown up tasting and sweetness without any sugar.
Ok, what’s the deal with keeping the skins?
Turns out they do 3 very interesting things.
One. They keep some of the oil from separating simply because they are fibrous and thus trap the oils in their layers. No hydrogenation needed.
Two. They contain significant antioxidant values.
The browning process released loads of phenolic compounds (a form of plant antioxidant)
Three. Those antioxidants may even be helping to protect the Vitamin E from going rancid. Thus you get more vitamin E per spoonful!