And so I mean no disrespect when I say that what may be his most lasting achievement is that thing we slather between two pieces of bread for what is one of the world’s best sandwiches. That thing that transforms an unassuming stalk of celery into a deliciously insect-laden log. That thing that so comically gets stuck on the roof of a doggie’s mouth.
To quote the Skippy website, "nobody consumes as much peanut butter as Americans." Damn straight, and no one puts us in a corner either. Seventy-five percent of our households bought a jar last year. On average, we each eat 3 pounds per annum. Not to give you sticky brown nightmares, but that's 8,000 calories and 685 grams of fat.
I feel like I ate half my quota since I made peanut butter last week. It's been all PB, all the time. It's one of the reasons why I've been AWOL -- apologies for not posting in more than two weeks. You see, I can barely reach past my PBB (peanut butter belly) to type this. Once again, Bill Watterson, creator of "Calvin and Hobbes," has totally nailed it: "If you can't control you peanut butter," he said, "you can't control your life."
Mr. Carver's recipe is way more complicated than it needs to be these days: he roasts then shells then grinds then adds salt/sugar/boiling water then boils over very low heat for 8 to 10 hours. His end-product is much denser than the sort of thing we're used to: it's chilled and sliced, eaten hot or cold, and sometimes "rolled in bread crumbs or cracker dust and fried a chicken brown" -- an "excellent substitute for meat." (Not unlike nutloaf, a contemporary recipe.)
I just don't have the time to contend with that particular recipe, not when making peanut butter is as easy as:
- Dump roasted, shelled peanuts in a food processor
- Press "Go"
But I did want to make myself suffer a bit in honor of Mr. Carver, so I ordered raw peanuts from Virginia (which I wrote about for a new food site I'm contributing to, Ffffood -- check it out!). I roasted and shelled them myself (with help from Jane), a pointless endeavor that took much longer than I expected. First they must be shelled, then roasted very briefly to loosen their skins, then their papery jackets must be removed. Some of those buggers just won't budge. It's not as bad as removing your own skin, but it's close.
I adapted this modern PB recipe, which is "for kids." Indeed, organizing a peanut-butter-making activity for kids is probably the only reason to make it. You don't save yourself any money and you certainly don't save any time. But it is a lot of fun -- so long as you say a silent thank you to Mr. Carver while you purchase pre-roasted, pre-shelled peanuts and blithely press "go" on your food processor.
Crunchy Peanut Butter
Crunchy Peanut Butter
2 pounds raw peanuts, in the shell (or make it easy on yourself: buy them roasted, possibly even shelled – in which case, you’ll need 4 cups!)
2 ½ tablespoons peanut oil
- Shell the peanuts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange peanuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for a few moments and then rub off the skins with your fingers. For those peanuts that won’t easily give off their skins, roast for another 3 to 5 minutes and try again.
- Arrange shelled and skinned peanuts on the baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Toss and redistribute peanuts twice so they’ll cook evenly.
- Let the peanuts cool. Reserve about ¾ cup of peanuts. Combine the rest of the peanuts and the peanut oil in the bowl of a food processor and process on high for 2 – 3 minutes, until smooth. Add the reserved peanuts and pulse 6 – 10 times, until the peanut chunks are evenly distributed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yield: About 3 cups.