Home-ground Peanut Butter

Ah, peanut butter. It’s one of my favorite things on the planet. I’ll spread it on toast, apples,bananas, and squares of dark chocolate; I’ll make cookies, brownies, and cakes with it; I’ll eat it by the spoon…it’s wonderful. It (unfortunately) shouldn’t be eaten excessively, but when consumed in moderation it’s a healthy, protein-filled choice. And it’s delightful.

Here’s the Part Where I Tell You A Story. Feel free to scroll to the “recipe.”

But I learned a long time ago that normal, store-bought peanut butter is full of nasty death oil (aka vegetable oil), large quantities of sugar, and some  not-so-fun preservatives. Check out the label of good ol’ Jif peanut butter here. I wouldn’t eat most of that.

[Note: Jif has improved their ingredients in the last five years…but they still use death oil and plenty of sugar. So I’m still a nope.]

As a poor college student, I ate more peanut butter than was probably good for me. Hey, it’s relatively cheap, it has protein, and it doesn’t require cooking. What more could a college student ask for? But as I became more cognizant of nutrition, I became dissatisfied with that nasty ingredient list. I looked into buying natural peanut butters (just containing peanuts and salt), but they were super expensive and had this disgusting layer of oil on top of them. You were supposed to mix the oil into the peanut butter underneath and then refrigerate the jar, but somehow it was always an oily mess. I wasn’t a fan, and neither was my budget.

But then I discovered this amazing grocery store that had in-store peanut grinders. The machine held a bunch of peanuts (dry-roasted, no other ingredients), and by pushing a button, the grinder would start and release peanut butter from a spout at the bottom of the machine. The store provided plastic containers of various sizes, and sold the peanut butter by weight – it was normally $3/lb, but was often on sale for $2/lb.

This peanut butter wasn’t super oily. It was just peanut butter. Normal, creamy peanut butter.

I quickly started buying my peanut butter exclusively from the store with the grind-it-yourself machine (it helped that they also had a giant room of craft beer, free coffee while you shopped, and any fruit or vegetable you can imagine…it was a cool store). The store used dry-roasted peanuts, with no added ingredients. This made me feel good about the nutrition of my peanut butter obsession, and it tasted wonderful. I would usually sprinkle a little sea salt over whatever I was eating, which really brought out the flavor. There was no going back!

But there was still room to go forward.

My mom got the brilliant idea of throwing a jar of peanuts into her high-powered Ninja blender to see what would happen.

What happened, was the the most delicious batch of peanut butter I have ever tasted.

Is This Healthier?

Yup. Unless, of course, you are adding hydrogenated vegetable oils and boat loads of sugar to your homemade peanut butter. And if you are doing that…well, you’re wrong. Stop it.

If you don’t know why vegetable oil is bad, click here. Besides that obvious ingredient, how much healthier homemade peanut butter is than store-bought depends entirely on what you add to it. If you’re like me and you add nothing, it’s about as healthy as peanut butter can possibly be. Because it’s literally just ground up peanuts. But if that doesn’t suit your taste, you can add a little sugar – or better yet, honey – to your peanut butter. The more sugar you add, the less healthy it gets. However, you can customize your peanut butter however you want, which is cool. I do add a little honey to mine when I’m making homemade Reeses peanut butter cups, and one time I added chocolate honey (it’s a thing. Get it here. I don’t get kickbacks from this link, but the honey is great), which was AMAZING for making desserts.

There’s also the salt component. Although salt isn’t inherently bad for you, some people need to limit their salt intake for certain health conditions. And you get to control the amount of salt in the final product when you make it yourself. My mom always adds salt directly to her peanut butter when she is making it (about 1/2 tsp per batch), whereas I prefer to sprinkle salt over my peanut butter toast/apple/whatever.

Does This Save Money?

Why, yes. It does.

I did math!

(I know, math is gross).

A pound of Jif-brand creamy peanut butter is $2.60 at Kroger, which comes out to $0.16/oz.

Store-ground peanut butter, where I live, costs between $2-$3/lb. I averaged it at $2.50/lb, which comes out to $0.16/oz. So it’s healthier than Jif, and it’s the same price

A pound of peanuts is $1.99 if I buy Aldi brand or if I buy Kroger brand when it’s on sale (which happens at least monthly). I’m cheap and stubborn, so I won’t buy them if they’re not $1.99. This comes out to $0.12/oz.

So homemade peanut butter is about $0.04/oz cheaper, or $0.64 less per lb. I go through a pound of peanut very quickly, so this is cool, but it’s not like it’s making a giant dent in my budget or anything. And if you rarely use peanut butter, it’s probably a negligible savings. But hey! It’s still cool!

And with the “healthy” factor if homemade peanut butter, this isn’t really a fair comparison.

Then again, you may end up eating more peanut butter because it’s both delicious and healthy. Consider yourself warned.

So how do you do it?

Well, it’s so simple that I’m hesitant to even call it a recipe, but…

Homemade Peanut Butter

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 Pounds (about a quart)

Ingredients

2 lbs peanuts

(opt) 1/2 tsp salt (or more or less to taste)

(opt) honey or sugar to taste

Directions

1) Buy jars of peanuts. Make sure you READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL and only buy dry-roasted peanuts. You don’t want to avoid the hydrogenated death oil in store-bought peanut butter, only to get it in the peanuts! A lot of peanuts (including most Planters brand peanuts) are roasted in death oil and coated with various spices. You want to make sure the ingredient label JUST says peanuts. I usually find these at Kroger or Aldi. Off-brand peanuts are cheaper than Planters anyway. 😛

2) Dump jars into high-powered blender, like the Ninja or Vitamix. This won’t work in a cheap $20 blender. Well, it might, but you also might burn out the motor. If you’re unsure about whether or not your blender will work, read the instructions; lower quality blenders will usually specify that you can’t grind nuts with them.

Alternately, you can grind your peanut butter by hand, using a hand mill!

(No, please don’t do that).

I did this once, when I was unemployed. It took over an hour to get very chunky, sort of sawdusty peanut butter. I don’t recommend it unless you’re really, really, really bored, or unless you’re a weirdo and think you might get some strange sense of satisfaction after hand-grinding peanut butter (Hi. My name is Jess and I’m a weirdo).

If you don’t have a fancy blender, you might be able to talk a friend or family member into letting your use their blender (full disclosure: I use my mom’s every couple of months. I’m told fancy blenders are really nice, but I don’t blend very many things – I hate smoothies – so I don’t see the point of buying one).

3) Turn the blender on. It takes a few minutes, but eventually the nuts magically turn into peanut butter! I shake the blender occasionally to make sure everything grinds nicely.

Go blender, go.
peanut butter being ground
Oooh, pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) If you’re adding salt or sugar (or both), you can do so now, and use the blender to mix everything together. Or you can do that by hand. Or you can skip this step entirely, like me.

5) Spoon the peanut butter into a storage container – two 16oz jars of peanuts perfectly fill a quart-sized mason jar with peanut butter

fresh ground peanut butter
See? It’s a perfect fit.
Yes, I plan to lick the spatula. Duh.

6) Clean the blender. This is by far the most annoying part.

7) Eat delicious, healthy peanut butter.

Yeenut Yudder is “peanut butter” in my family’s personal language. Yat’s yight. ye’re Yawesome.
Storage

Any container will work – I like mason jars. You can do whatever you want. Keep it in a five gallon Menards bucket if it strikes your fancy; I don’t care.

But there are a few tips that you may need to keep the texture of your peanut butter intact during storage.

Keep It Fresh

Remember how I said that store-bought natural peanut butter are oily and gross? I think the lack of oil may have something to do with freshness; when I bulk-bought 10 lbs of fresh-ground peanut butter, some of the containers started to get a film of oil by the time I used them. Now I only make what I will use in a month or two, and never have an oil problem. I’ve also heard that nut butters can go rancid if stored for long periods of time, so it’s probably better to keep things fresh anyway. The great thing about making peanut butter at home, is that you can make as much or as little as you’d like. I make a quart at a time, but my mom makes a pint, since she uses less peanut butter than I do.

Temperature Control

When you buy Jif peanut butter, it stays in the pantry. When you buy natural peanut butters, they sometimes have a “refrigerate after opening label.” But sometimes they don’t. What should you do?

Well, I keep my peanut butter in the pantry 90% of the time. I prefer warmer, softer peanut butter. I use it quickly, so I’m not concerned with rancidity. You can keep in the fridge, but it will be harder to spread. My mom prefers the texture of refrigerated peanut butter, so try it and see if you like it. But personally, I like soft, spreadable PB.

However, if the peanut butter is stored in very warm conditions, the oil will start to separate. If you keep your house at a “normal” temperature, you will probably never have any issues. If you are like me and you don’t have air conditioning, you might have a problem in the summer.

So I do keep the peanut butter in the fridge for the few weeks of the summer that my area has temperatures in the 90s. If I had a root cellar, I’d keep the peanut butter there in the summer, but I don’t. So I make do with the fridge.

But most of the time, at room temperature, the peanut butter is fine.

Other Nut Butters

I haven’t tried making my own almond or cashew butter, but I see no reason why that wouldn’t work. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Cast Iron Cookware: Reseasoning & Refurbishing

So maybe you’ve decided to use cast iron, but you’re not sure how to season the pan after buying it from the store. Or maybe you have an old cast iron pan lying around somewhere, and you’re wondering if you can still use it. Maybe your well-meaning cousin’s boyfriend’s grandmother hands you an old pan covered in rust as a gift.

Yes, you can still use it, with a little reseasoning. Read on to find out how!

(Read Part 1: Using Cast Iron and Part 2: Why You Should Use It for the full story)

Once I decided to use exclusively cast iron and stainless steel cookware, I needed to expand my cast iron collection beyond the single 12″ skillet. But even though cast iron isn’t expensive, I don’t like to spend money.

So of course, I waited until I found a good deal on a pan at a garage sale…a 10″ skillet for $3. It had a small rust spot on it, so I scrubbed the rust off, reseasoned it, cooked some bacon, and now it’s perfect. I have since added a dutch oven (free from someone’s basement) and waffle iron (received as a gift) to my collection. Combined with my trusty stainless steel skillet and saucepan that I use for highly acidic things (like tomato sauce), I figured I’d never buy another pan.

Until now.

No, none of my pans broke. They all work great, and I’ll probably have them until I die. But I discovered that you can roast coffee beans in a cast iron pan…but your pan will taste like coffee forever. So I decided that obviously, I needed a pan specifically for coffee beans.

My “New” Coffee Roasting Pan

Ironically, the price I paid for this pan was twice what I paid for all of my cast equipment combined – a whole $6, from a yard sale.

It was also, by far, the dirtiest, most disgusting pan I’ve ever seen. Rust covered most of the bottom of the pan, as well as the handle, and it was filthy with literal dirt. When you touched it, you got what looked like axle grease on your hands. You know, the black, icky stuff from the car or lawn mower. This is what happens when dirt meets grease. To make matters worse, it had cobwebs on it. And in it.

It was gross.

But it was a pan. And it was $6. And I was too impatient to wait for a cheaper or a better pan. Besides, now I can write a blog post about refurbishing a cast iron pan.

Part 1: Making It Not Broken

Remove the Ick

For all of my love of not “cleaning” cast iron, you don’t want dirt in your pan. If your pan has been sitting in a garage or a garbage dump for awhile, you need to clean it. And I recommend cleaning it really, really well. In order to do this, I washed it in the sink with a whole lot of dish soap. It turned my sponge black and ran black water into the sink. It was gross. But when I was done, the cobwebs, dirt, and “axle grease” was gone. I washed both the inside and the outside of the pan. Actually, I washed it three separate times because that is what it took to get off all the ‘ick’.

If you have a rusty pan that is otherwise not dirty, you can skip this step.

Remove the Rust

I have read online that you can run your cast-iron pan through the “self-clean” function on your oven to remove rust. In theory, this is easy and great. But it practice, I hate using the “self-clean” feature on my oven. It runs for, like, five hours. It uses a ton of power. And it emits so much heat that I would never think to do it in the summer. I was certainly not going to run this feature on a clean oven just to remove rust from a pan, especially when there is no guarantee that is actually works. But I mention it because you can feel free to try this.

I used good ol’ elbow grease. I turned on the radio, got a piece of steel wool, and scrubbed. And then I scrubbed more. And then my arm got tired, and I kept scrubbing anyway.

Did I mention there was a lot of rust?

Rusty cast iron pan
This photo was taken AFTER I’d washed the pan and scrubbed off some of the rust…..

If you have one little rust spot, it’s pretty easy to scrub it off with steel wool. It probably won’t take more than a couple of minutes. But if you have a lot of rust, it’s harder and it takes longer.

Basically, you want to rub all of the rust off of the pan. You might see shiny black finish underneath. You might see silver steel. Either way is fine. When I was done, this pan mostly had black shiny finish, with a few spots of silver.

Don’t neglect rust spots on the outside of the pan when you do this!

Part 2: Reseasoning The Pan

Once you get all the rust and dirt off of an old cast iron pan, you can go about reseasoning it. You should also do this when you first buy a cast iron pan. Sometimes cast iron cookware comes “pre-seasoned”, but in my experienced that shiny black finish from the store isn’t very good, and you should season it again. Other times, it comes without any finish at all, and looks silver and metallic. If you don’t season the pan to get the nice black finish, everything will stick terribly and be awful.

1) Preheat your oven to 450.

2) Smear liberal amounts of grease or oil on the inside of your pan. You can use paper towel, or an old rag, or your fingers. It doesn’t matter. The raw iron will soak up the grease, so don’t be shy.

3) Smear a SMALL amount of grease or oil on the outside of your pan. You want the outside of your pan to be seasoned as well as the inside, to prevent rust, but you also don’t want the outside to feel greasy. The outside isn’t getting washed or cooked on regularly, so a tiny amount should do you just fine.

4) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent a pain-in-the-neck cleanup

5) Turn the pan upside down, put it on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

6) Let the pan cool.

7) Repeat a few times. For a brand-new, already store-seasoned pan, one time through this cycle is probably enough. One time is probably also enough if you’re just cleaning up one or two tiny rust spots on a pan. For a completely “raw” iron pan, or a badly damaged pan, 3-4 times may be required. You don’t need to do all this on the same day, although you can if you want. After the initial “seasoning”, your pan will be relatively resilient. I typically will season it 3-4 more times over the next few weeks, waiting until I’m already heating up my oven for some other reason to run the pan through an additional seasoning cycle.

Basically, each time you complete these steps, you get a thicker patina on your pan.

Reseasoned pan
See that shiny black patina in the pan?

If you have a rusty old pan that you scrubbed clean, keep in mind that you may have missed a spot or two. Examine the pan after the reseasoning process, and make sure you don’t see any rust. If you do, get the rust off and run it through the oven again.

I’d also recommend re-oiling your pan (see: cast iron care) the first few times you use a new or refurbished pan. You just want to make sure that the patina is as pretty and non-stick as possible, and cooking grease into the pan is how that happens.

Why Should You Do This?

Uh…because you can?

I’ll admit – this process isn’t quick or fun. It’d be easier to buy a pre-seasoned pan from the store, run it through the oven once, and start cooking. And you can certainly do that.

But personally, I think there is something satisfying about preserving an old pan. This week, I was able to take something that is essentially dirty trash, purchase it for a few dollars, and turn it into something usable that will last me for many years. To me, that’s worth a little elbow grease.

There may also be sentimental reasons to do this. Perhaps your grandmother has an old cast iron pan that has gotten rusty after years of disuse. Perhaps you find a pan with a really cool story behind it that you want to preserve. Whatever the reason, now you know how to do it, and can enjoy your antique iron pans.

Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It

PS. Throw Out Your Teflon Pans

You read all about how to take care of your cast iron pan (or maybe you didn’t, in which case you can click here), and now you’re wondering why on earth you should bother. You already know how to take care of a Teflon non-stick pan. Why go through the learning curve to use cast iron? Why do all these homesteading websites insist that cast iron is amazing? Are people just crazy? Do homesteaders just like extra work?

No. Most homesteaders do not like extra work. It seems like we do, but we don’t. Really. Also, cast iron pans are not extra work.

Continuing My Cast Iron Tale

Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It”

Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use

Cast iron is often lauded as the kingpin of a homestead kitchen – and for good reason. Cast iron is awesome. Welcome to a 3-Part Series on Cast Iron! We are going to start by explaining USING your cast iron, on a daily basis, as well as how to clean you pan (it’s easier than you think!).

A lovely 10″ skillet, moments after frying my morning eggs

My Introduction to Cast Iron

I received my first cast iron pan – a 12″ Lodge – as a Christmas gift when I was a senior in college, and honestly…I had no idea how to take care of it. The person who gave it to me claimed that you just washed and dried the pan like normal; no special care required because it came pre-seasoned from the store. You just couldn’t put it in the dishwasher. So I washed the pan with soap and water, and left it to dry in the drying rack with my other pans.

Ha. Ha.

Yeah, it rusted terribly, overnight. Horrified, I googled cast iron pans and found that you never, ever should leave them to air dry. I also found conflicting advice on what oil to use to re-season it, how to clean it, what to cook in it, and just about everything else. I scrubbed of the rust (since it had only been 1 day, it wasn’t hard to get it off), oiled it, and baked it in the oven, per the Internet’s instructions. Then I put the pan away and didn’t use it because all the conflicting advice was overwhelming and I didn’t want it to get rusty again. Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use”

Strawberry Picking & Preserves!

There are few things I enjoy more on a Saturday morning than visiting a U-Pick farm.

Seriously. I’m not kidding.

I love to pick stuff. Berries, leaves, mushrooms – whatever. Harvesting food is awesome.

It probably comes from when I was a little kid, and would go hiking all over southeast Michigan with my mom. My parents owned property near an area filled with wild raspberries and blackberries, and every time my mom saw any, she would get excited, and we would have to stop and pick them. Even if we were in a hurry. Or if it was raining. Or if the berries were down in a ravine filled with poison ivy.

Well, it rubbed off on me, because I’ve learned to forage for all kinds of things when I’m in the woods. But when I’m not in the woods…I visit U-Pick farms. Continue reading “Strawberry Picking & Preserves!”

Glyphosate: Part 1 – History of Herbicides

Awhile ago, I shared my opinion on GMOs and you saw that while I think the idea of genetically modifying something is fine, engineering something to be resistant to loads of glyphosate is NOT fine. I also promised that I would write a post that explains why.

It’s been a little while because guys, writing super well-researched articles is time consuming. And I want whatever science-y stuff I put on this site to be super well-researched.

The Short Version

I am not a fan of glyphosate. I try to avoid glyphosate. In fact, I won’t use glyphosate in my yard/garden, except for VERY special reasons (poison ivy being that ‘special reason’).

However, farmers are NOT running around drowning plants in glyphosate in an attempt to poison the world and destroy the environment. In fact, many farmers who use glyphosate are trying to help the environment and public health…and that’s NOT because they’ve been duped by Monsanto. (Although Monsanto is a pretty evil company. But they’re evil for different reasons). The farmers actually ARE helping the environment and public health in comparison to the agricultural techniques that were used prior to glyphosate.

It’s time for America to start using innovative agricultural techniques that move us away from herbicide use in general, which includes moving away from glyphosate. Glyphosate – and other chemicals – aren’t good. I avoid them! But we can’t just ban glyphosate all of a sudden or accuse conventional farmers of being evil. They’re not.

Read on for the details. Continue reading “Glyphosate: Part 1 – History of Herbicides”

Avoiding Vegetable Oil – Practical Considerations

A surprisingly large number of people have been interested in my previous post about vegetable oil, where I explained why I don’t use it. But how does one go about avoiding vegetable oil? It’s in everything! Besides, don’t you need vegetable oil to make cakes and stuff?

Short Answer:

No, vegetable oil is worthless. You can still eat cake without it. 🙂

Long Answer

Continue reading “Avoiding Vegetable Oil – Practical Considerations”

Are GMOs Safe?

You’ve heard the term “GMO”. Maybe you’ve seen the “Verified non-GMO” labels on certain products in the grocery store. Your neighbor told you that GMOs are killing children, but your cousin said that the anti-GMO is the biggest farce since the low-fat craze. But what exactly does GMO mean? Is it bad?

Definition:

GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” This basically means that a group of scientists took the DNA of a plant or animal and changed it in some way.

What the H— Does That Mean? Is It Like Breeding Dogs?

For millennia we have been changing gene expression through selective breeding. When people breed dogs to create new breeds, they are essentially “genetically modifying” the subsequent generations of dogs. We don’t usually refer to breeding as genetically modifying however, because scientists aren’t altering the DNA on a microscopic level; they are simply counting on nature to mix genes in a certain way if they force Dog A to breed with Dog B. This is usually called “hybridization” and is generally accepted by most people. Pluots are an example of a hybridized fruit – they are a cross between a plum and an apricot. Grapefruits are also hybrids, resulting from a pummelo (a type of citrus) being crossed with a sweet orange.

So what makes a GMO different from a hybrid? Well, basically, GMOs are created in a laboratory. Instead of breeding two existing things, scientists manually go on and turn genes on or off OR they add or remove bits of DNA from an organism. When this organism reproduces, its offspring will carry on the modified genes. A popular example of a GMO crop is Round-Up ready corn. This corn had a gene introduced to make it tolerant to glyphosate (the active component of the herbicide Round-Up). Another example is Golden Rice, which is rice that is engineered to contain more Vitamin A than normal rice (not yet available on the market).

Pro-GMO VS. Anti-GMO

Listed below are some common arguments made by both those who are pro-GMO and those who are anti-GMO. Continue reading “Are GMOs Safe?”

Why I Won’t Touch Vegetable Oil With a 10 Foot Pole

It’s become fairly common knowledge that olive oil and other unprocessed oils are better for you than regular vegetable oils, but most people don’t think of vegetable oil as BAD for you. Plus, vegetable oil is cheap, readily available, in practically every packaged food you can find, and extremely convenient when cooking. But if you read my Diet Dogma, you’ll know that it is one of the only things on my “NEVER EAT” list!

Lucky for me and my health, my mom switched to primarily olive oil for cooking when I was a small child, after the Mediterranean Diet became popular. As a result, I used vegetable oil sparingly as an adult, though I still used it in baking, frying, and to make certain salad dressings. I thought that the high smoke point and neutral flavor of the oil was invaluable for certain applications, because that’s what some of the cooking websites said (note: It’s really not invaluable. It’s completely replaceable and the replacements usually work better).

The Research That Changed Everything

But in my senior year of college, back when I thought I was going to go to grad school to become a dietitian, I was researching cooking oil. In one of my classes, we had talked about the American Heart Association’s endorsement of vegetable oil and about how saturated fats were terrible…but I had trouble believing that. People have used butter for a bazillion years, and we didn’t have heart disease until recently. In fact, my mom switched from margarine to butter when I was a little kid, and I recalled that both parents actually lost weight as a result.

I decided to investigate these claims myself by really delving into the research. I had already had several years of research experience, so I was quite familiar with reading research papers. As project manager of my research office, I also had paid access to a variety of medical journals through my work computer. One night, when most of my non-working college student peers were home on spring break, I stayed late at the office to dig into some vegetable oil research.

My findings were disturbing.

Continue reading “Why I Won’t Touch Vegetable Oil With a 10 Foot Pole”

VERY SCIENTIFIC Egg Taste Test!

So you read about why I think pastured eggs are better than regular eggs, and saw that although I thought there was a taste difference, some studies showed that there was no taste difference. Am I insane? Are the studies wrong? Obviously, I needed to do an egg taste taste.

BECAUSE SCIENCE.

So. Do pastured eggs taste better than conventional eggs?

The short answer:

OH MY GOD, YES. GO BUY THEM. BUY THEM NOW (read where and how to buy them here!).

The long answer:

Continue reading “VERY SCIENTIFIC Egg Taste Test!”