For those who misesd it or need a brush-up, here again is my Peanut Butter 101 class. It’s an introductory course designed to help you get the maximum enjoyment out of your peanut butter (or any nut butter). Whether you’re looking to switch to all natural peanut butter that actually tastes like peanuts or learn how to vastly improve your storage techniques, this is the place to be! While the focus on this class will be some basic definitions and how to manage your natural peanut butter collection, don’t be misled! The tips and tricks outlined here aren’t just for newcomers – peanut butter veterans may learn something too. Take it from an expert: these tips for storing, stirring, and eating your peanut butter will decrease effort, stress and messiness while increasing shelf life and boosting your satisfaction. For all those that tried to move to “natural” peanut butter and failed – this is for you! If you have any peanut butter tips of your own, please comment below and I’ll include them in the next class!
Standard Peanut Butter (also called Regular) – This is what most of you grew up with. You’ll generally find two varieties available – creamy (smooth) and crunchy (chunky) – but no matter which you choose, the peanut butter itself is usually a very fine grind resulting in a creamy, silky texture. Generally speaking, creamy peanut butter has a red lid and crunchy peanut butter has a blue lid. According to FDA regulations, a product must contain at least 90% peanuts to be considered peanut butter. Standard peanut butter generally has at least additional 3 ingredients besides peanuts: salt, sugar and vegetable oil. The type of salt or sugar may vary but the vegetable oil is usually either partially- or fully-hydrogenated to prevent oil separation. Skippy, Jif and Peter Pan are the most common brands in the United States.
Natural Peanut Butter (also called Traditional or Old Fashioned) – As the name suggests, this type of peanut butter is much more natural and contains just 1 or 2 ingredients. The first ingredient is roasted peanuts and the second ingredient is salt, although sometimes you’ll find unsalted natural peanut butter in which case the only ingredient is roasted peanuts. In the past few years, natural peanut butter has become much more dominant in the marketplace. While you still find only two varieties of natural peanut butter, creamy and crunchy, you will notice much more variability between different brands and manufacturers. Some brands use a fine grind resulting in a very thin consistency (such as Trader Joe’s or Kirkland) while others use a coarse grind resulting in a delightful gritty texture (such as Peanut Butter Boy or Appomattox). The coarser grind helps prevent oil separation, and since I prefer the texture, I prefer this type overall. Our brand in particular has a very thick texture which helps minimize stirring. Specifically the Crunch Power variety has very little oil rise to the top. The Super Smooth variety has a little more oil rise to the top, but not as much as other brands. In my opinion, natural peanut butter should be considered just “peanut butter”, because that’s precisely what it is. Those regular peanut butters (Skippy, Jif, etc..) are really a processed peanut-based product – perhaps they should be called “Peanut Paste” to avoid confusion.
No-Stir Natural Peanut Butter – This type of peanut butter was developed to cater to those who are trying to go “natural” and eat foods with less chemicals, but still love the taste, consistency and ease of regular peanut butter. Instead of hydrogenated oil these products use palm oil as a stabilizer which, despite being natural, still may not be all that good for us. Other than that, most brands still use some form of salt and sugar to recreate the “Jif experience”, but often up the ante by using either evaporated cane juice or some type of organic sweetener. No matter what they claim, I have yet to find a “No-Stir Natural Peanut Butter” that actually requires no stirring. Even Skippy Natural usually has oil on top when you open a new jar, and if you’re accustomed to stirring your peanut butter to get it extra creamy (like I do with all peanut butter), the oil will separate even more. So while the palm oil helps the oil separation, it does not totally prevent it.
Natural Peanut Butter Techniques
If my name was “The Peanut Butter Prophet”, I would bet that natural peanut butter is the future of peanut butter. Already, in the past few years, natural peanut butter has become drastically more popular. The problem is that many people expect it to be just like the jar of Peter Pan they grew up with. It’s not. Many people dislike “natural” peanut butter because it’s difficult to stir – because if you don’t stir well enough, when you reach the bottom you’ll discover a hard, inedible substance. Some manufactures recommend refrigerating natural peanut butter so the oil doesn’t separate as much – this works, but then the peanut butter is impossible to spread since it’s so thick. Well here is the Peanut Butter Boy’s (or Prophet’s) tried and tested method to manage and utilize your natural peanut butter:
1. Store your shiny new jar of natural peanut butter upside down. This will allow the oil to rise to the bottom of the jar, making it easier to stir when you open it.
2. When your old jar of peanut butter is finished, fetch the new jar and turn it right side up.
3. Open up the new jar and stir well using a butter knife and/or a spatula. I use the spatula to get any of the bits stuck to the side and bottom and the butter knife to mix and chop the bits up. Also add salt at this point if the peanut butter is unsalted (optional, about 1t kosher salt per 16oz jar). If it’s too difficult to stir or the jar is really large, dump and scrape out the jar into a large bowl or tupperware and mix it in that.
4. Once it’s well mixed, dump half into the old empty jar and keep half in the new jar (or any sealed container). Put one of the containers in the fridge and keep the other one in the cabinet. When the one in your cabinet gets low, take the one out of the fridge to let it thaw overnight.
5. By splitting 1 jar into 2 half-jars, less oil will separate between uses (because there is less oil in each jar now) and even when it does, it will be much easier to mix since the jar is only half full. Plus, the remaining half in the fridge will stay fresher longer. Remember to save some of the empty peanut butter jars, they are great for this purpose as well as making your own flavors!