ISSUE 13: NUT BUTTER
It's not just peanuts anymore!
I know, nut butter ~lol~ but I didn’t want to limit this issue to just peanut butter because the grocery aisle isn’t limited to just Skippy or Jif! Since the arrival of Justin’s, supermarket shelves now include almond, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, walnut, pistachio, and macadamia butters. There are nut butters enhanced with mushrooms, blue and pink nut butters, flavored with spirulina and dragonfruit respectively. Even nut-free nut butters have carved out a space for themselves: Brands Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds, and Seedible, made from sesame seeds, market toward those who want to be free from the Top 8 food allergens. And of course there are your ethos-driven, artisanal butters like Flatbush-based Danny’s Nut Butter which is proudly free of palm oil because “Deforestation aint shit!” or Ground Up Nut Butters that provides job training to womxn overcoming adversity in the Portland, Oregon area.
And to ward off the trolls: yes, you’re right. Peanuts are not actually nuts, but legumes. (It needed to be said)
Nut butter can be divided into two groups: No Stir and Oil on Top. No Stir nut butter is the stuff we grew up on, that may not actually be peanut butter but technically peanut butter spread if it is less than 90% peanuts. Oil on Top nut butters are typically more health-conscious with fewer ingredients and sourcing information. Jif introduced the wide-mouth, plastic jar that we know today in the late 80’s but many brands have gone back to the retro glass jar packaging, especially the “natural” varieties.
Most peanut butters are made with Runner peanuts, as they are larger in size, consistent in flavor and grow uniformly, making for an even roast. Their flavor isn’t great but manufacturers zhuzh it up with sugar and other tasty additives. Some brands however, use the Valencia peanut according to Jon Krampner’s “Creamy & Crunchy”. Arrowhead Mills, Sunland, Trader Joe’s, Kirkland, Once Again, and Joseph’s Sugar-Free all use Valencia peanuts for their peanut butters. Koeze makes peanut butter with Virginia peanuts, the variety that used to be most popular for peanut butter before Runners took over. (Spanish peanuts, the fourth peanut variety, are usually sold as canned cocktail peanuts and used in peanut candy and not used for peanut butter)
Nut butter will be found in the center aisles of your grocery store as they are shelf stable and don’t need refrigeration. In addition to glass and plastic jars, nut butters are also available in squeeze packs and powders.
My favorite way to prepare nut butter is a PB&J. A close second are these peanut butter and jelly bars from Ina Garten. Truly legendary. This tangy peanut sauce from Food and Wine is giving me the motivation to cook fish for dinner, as any meal that involves preparing fresh fish is aspirational for me.
Over the holidays I baked Grossy Pelosi’s Peanut Butter Blossoms twice and also made a batch of the classic peanut butter cookies from Fannie Farmer. Growing up my dad and stepmom were vegetarian but we all liked this vegetable mango stir fry from Vegetarian Times.
If you have an almost-empty jar of almond butter, try this almond butter vinaigrette? This smooth and spicy almond sauce could also be an interesting salad dressing. Sweet Paul mag suggests these almond butter cinnamon rolls as well as using almond butter in a roasted beet dip.
Saveur has a recipe for a West African Peanut Stew from Jessica B. Harris, author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. (The nickname “Goobers” for peanuts comes from nguba, the word for peanut in the Kimbundu language of Angola. Goober is one of the few words in American English with an African derivation! Peanuts are just one of the foods brought to America via the transatlantic slave trade; A lot of what we consider “southern food” is based on West African cuisine, I highly recommened reading Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene to understand the connection)
All those suggestions aside, maybe the best way to eat nut butter? “At 2 am, stoned, straight out of the jar,” says Danny Castenada of Danny’s Nut Butter. “That's usually my go to. Or you can simply put it on toast. ;)
Natural nut butters should be stored UPSIDE DOWN! This will help you avoid the treacherous oil-on-top-stir. You can store it in the fridge if you must but allow the nut butter to warm up closer to room temp before enjoying or stirring. Peanut butter *can* go rancid, but you should be able to tell visually: the butter will become hard and dry and may smell funky. If you start to see oil separate in No Stir butters, like Jif or Skippy, that is a sign it could be turning and you may need to toss soon.
REMEMBER: “ENJOY BY”, “BEST BY”, “BEST BEFORE”, “BEST WHEN/IF USED BY”, ARE NOT SAFETY DATES! These dates are issued by the manufacturer, estimating how long the nut butter will remain at “peak quality”. THE BEST WAY TO DISCERN QUALITY IS THE SMELL AND/OR TASTE TEST!
Nut butters can be divided into two categories: Oil on Top and No Stir. Most peanut butters are made with Runners peanuts, though some brands use Valencia or Virginia peanuts. Store Oil on Top nut butters upside down in your pantry. Nut butter can be enjoyed on its own, in sweet desserts or savory entrées.
The freshest picked news from the world wide web
This op-ed from Civil Eats explains why having two companies shell 80% of our peanuts is costing U.S. taxpayers millions
Canadian grocery store No Frills (sick name) has a really cool anime commercial, where one of the customers tosses (what else?) a jar of peanut butter into his cart
The word wet market was added to Merriam Webster this year lol
San Antonio-based H-E-B has launched ‘H-E-B Spent Grain Beer Bread’, made from spent grain from local microbreweries and upcycled into flour that is carb-free and high in protein
The Publix grocery chain heiress was a key funder of the "Save America" rally
Union workers at Hunts Point won the raise they fought for after a seven-day walkout
‘Humanewashing’ is the new greenwashing in shady food marketing
Food branding is moving away from millennial minimalist and into 70’s jewel tones (think Chobani’s 2018 rebrand) according to Brand consultant Andrea Hernández
This piece from Alicia Kennedy On Ingredients and sourcing reminds us that to write a recipe is to write about ingredients
Organic produce sales rose 14.2% in 2020, representing an increase of $1 billion to $8.5 billion
The Counter spoke with Jovani Prince, the 56-year-old founder of The Cracker King about his company’s snowballing success since the murder of George Floyd.
These businesses are bent on making kelp a *thing*
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