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Our Daily Spread : Home-Ground: Building a Better Butter

March 10, 1994|JOAN DRAKE

Up to 10% of any jar of peanut butter you buy in the store can be salt, sweeteners, oil or stabilizers. If you'd like to avoid those, you can buy peanut butters made 100% from peanuts. But many of these don't contain the germ of the nut, which imparts a slightly bitter flavor. Also, heat during processing or storage may cause butter containing the germ to turn rancid.

So, to enjoy the freshest, most full-bodied peanut butter, you need to make your own. For us, the only difficult part of the operation was finding shelled, raw peanuts. Some supermarkets carried unroasted nuts still in the pods, but health food stores turned out to be the best source for buying peanuts ready for roasting.

You can, of course, take off the shells and papery skins yourself. If the skins are hard to remove, cover the shelled nuts with boiling water and set aside for about five minutes. After draining, the skins should slip off easily. You will, however, need to either dry the nuts for several hours or increase the roasting time by a few minutes before grinding into butter.

Peanuts are actually legumes, rather than nuts. There are four varieties--Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. Runner are the type used in most commercial peanut butters.

Raw, shelled peanuts will stay fresh three to six months in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer. Bring them to room temperature before roasting.

Spread the ivory-colored raw nuts in a single layer on a jellyroll pan. Roast at 350 degrees, stirring often, until golden-brown, about 15 to 20 minutes (Step 1).

After cooling slightly, place one cup of nuts at a time in the container of an electric blender. Add about three tablespoons of oil (Step 2). Vegetable, safflower or peanut oil may be used. The first two are more bland in flavor.

Salt is optional but may be added at this stage. A half teaspoon per cup of nuts is the general guideline.

Process the nuts at high speed, scraping down the sides of the container frequently with a rubber spatula (Step 3). Continue processing until the nuts reach the desired consistency, adding more oil if necessary.

For chunky peanut butter, place only 3/4 cup of the nuts in the blender. Coarsely chop the remaining 1/4 cup and fold into the blended butter before storing.

Homemade peanut butter must be refrigerated to keep it from turning rancid. Over time the oil will rise to the top, but you can redistribute it by periodically inverting the jar. Bring the peanut butter to room temperature and stir well before using.

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER

1 cup raw peanuts

3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

Place peanuts in single layer on jellyroll pan. Roast at 350 degrees, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Cool slightly, then place nuts in container of electric blender. Add about 3 tablespoons oil and salt.

Process at high speed, scraping down sides of container frequently with rubber spatula. Continue processing until nuts are desired consistency, adding more oil if necessary.

Place peanut butter in tightly covered jar and refrigerate. If oil rises to top, invert jar to redistribute. Bring peanut butter to room temperature and stir well before using. Makes about 1 cup.

Note: For chunky peanut butter, place 3/4 cup nuts in blender. Coarsely chop remaining 1/4 cup nuts and fold into blended butter before storing.

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