Sigh. I had high hopes for homemade peanut butter. Really, I did. And I blame the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market.
There’s this vendor there that sells fresh veggies and also, over to one side, peanut butter and other nut butters: Cashew butter. Almond butter. Plain peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter. They’re delicious. Rob and I got sucked in a few years ago by the little old woman who was helping sell them. We were sampling the wares, and being picky shoppers and asking questions. She was answering us back with sass: Of course it’s good. They’re ALL my favorite. Store it on the counter top, not in the fridge. And then, on the cusp of buying, we asked how long it would last. She laughed at us. “Oh, it’ll keep a long time,” she said, “but I promise you, it won’t last.”
We were sold.
The obviously hand-crafted peanut butter is somewhere between creamy and chunky, smooth with small bites of peanuts in it, not overly oily, sweet but not too sweet and utterly delicious. Better than the store-bought stuff, even than the natural store-bought stuff. The ingredient list is simple, and all things we had on hand. I can make this, I thought.
And so I tried. And it turned out… not as expected.
Challenge: Peanut Butter
I picked up some Skippy Natural for comparison purposes, which has a simple ingredient list: Roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil and salt.
Sort-of following Alton Brown’s recipe, my peanut butter had a similarly simple ingredient list: Roasted peanuts, peanut oil and honey. But Alton recommended buying in-shell Spanish peanuts, roasting them, shelling them, de-skinning them, and THEN pureeing them with oil, honey and salt.
So I adapted a bit, and did this:
7.5 ounces pre-roasted, pre-salted peanuts (but don’t use “dry roasted” peanuts – they’re spiced.)
1.5 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. honey
I added it all to a food processor, gave it a whirr, scraped it down, and processed it some more. The peanuts went through several stages: Chunks, crumbles, fine powder, thick ball and then finally… peanut butter.
Or something peanut-butter-ish. More like a thick, semi-chunky peanut paste. Hmmm…. I tried a second batch, with more oil and more honey and longer processing. I thought I had it right. But after about an hour of rest, I realized I was closer, but still wrong. And then, I was also out of peanuts.
For narrative purposes, I’m changing around the order of my analysis today:
The store-bought peanut butter has a peanut-butter taste, which is to say it tastes sort of peanutty and is sweet but doesn’t have the true peanut aftertaste. It’s also creamy and thick and soft, and easily spreadable. It doesn’t separate much, although it does a little.
The (second) batch of homemade peanut butter is sweet and salty, and it has a rich, true peanut taste. It tastes like sweetened peanuts, rather than like peanut butter, if that makes any sense. I frankly prefer this flavor. That said, the texture is totally off. It’s uber thick, not at all creamy (it didn’t hold together well as a paste), and an attempt to spread this tore the bread (reference: Cold butter.) And it doesn’t look very appetizing, either. It’s technically edible, but no one is touching it.
Time and Cost Comparison
The store bought peanut butter costs about $3.19 for 15 ounces, making it about $0.21 per ounce. It’s in the peanut butter section at the grocery store, and thus is easy to find.
I’m ballparking this week, because you know what? There’s no way the DIY is going to win. It’s the wrong texture. End of story. However, it cost about $1.75 to make an 8 ounce batch, making it about $0.18 per ounce.
The two peanut butters have relatively similar ingredients: Peanuts, sugar, oil, salt. The choice of sugars (sugar vs. honey) is personal, however the store-bought’s choice of oil is troubling. Palm oil production is (allegedly) destroying vast amounts of natural forest in the southern hemisphere. I try to avoid this particular ingredient as much as humanly possible. There are other natural peanut butters that don’t use this ingredient, such as Adams Peanut Butter or there’s a brand called Real Peanut Butter that (I think…) is also palm-free. So, check the label when you’re buying.
Irrelevant comparison when one won’t be consumed.
What Went Wrong
I have theories. A) I didn’t really follow the recipe I chose (the home roasting, shelling, etc. part was skipped, and perhaps that was more important than I guessed). B) I may not have processed for long enough. C) I think I didn’t have enough oil, but it could be that I used a not-exceptionally-high-quality peanut, too.
Making the peanut butter was easy. But the fact that the DIY didn’t work out is actually a pretty big PITA. So… 8. For this particular attempt.
DIY or Buy?
Buy. At least for me, at least until I can find a successful peanut butter recipe and give this a second attempt. (Secret motivation: I’m convinced that a wasabi peanut butter would be AMAZING. But I have to be able to make it to know.)
Have you ever tried making homemade peanut butter? How’d it work? Care to share your recipe with me?