Peanut butter was one of the first store cupboard standards I ever made from scratch and remains one of my most repeated creations. Of all the DIY food projects you could undertake making peanut butter must be the easiest. It basically boils down to two steps:
- Roast nuts
- Blend nuts
Yep that’s it. You can obviously add honey, salt, chilli etc. but it is essentially a one ingredient wonder. It’s so easy that I always have jar at the ready for an afternoon snackerel.
Despite being a fervent devotee of peanut spread I have been slow to expand my blended nut horizons. Google and the bloggersphere indicate that you can butter any nut if you have the volition but, as per golden rule number 5, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I have therefore decided to investigate nut butters for myself (and you, my esteemed readers).
Nut butters are widely consumed on toast, crackers, or even rivita by those who consider joy in life to be optional. I like to cut out the middle man and devour my PB straight from the jar with a spoon. Some regard this the mark of a philistine but I prefer the term connoisseur. The haters can say what they like, I will be sampling my nut butters neat, like a fine single malt.
1. Classic peanut butter
Peanut butter has a long and rich history. It was first used as cure for toothache by the Aztecs and gained a popular following after its inclusion in the 1916 edition of ‘How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption’. A riveting read.
The taste: That’s it! the intense, earthy, creamy flavour which reaches right back to the the back of your tounge and the texture which coats the roof of your mouth. It tastes like all good peanut butter should. However I wouldn’t say it is necessarily better than the higher end supermarket brands I’ve tried (and I have sampled many).
The verdict: 8/10 Yes it does taste amazing, but so do many supermarket versions. Basically it isn’t extraordinary.
2. Caramelised cashew butter
Caramelised: the sophisticated way of saying I forgot to set an oven timer. In an attempt to remedy my error I spent 10 mins scraping the charcoal off my cashews and added a little sesame oil to deconstipate the texture and make the earthy burnt flavour seem intentional.
The taste: Alas, I have neither salvaged the taste, nor thinned the butter. You practically need a pickaxe to get it out of the jar.
The verdict: 3/10. I do apologise to all the lovely cashew butters out there, my poor cookery skills are giving you all a bad name.
3. Walnut Butter
I spent the first half of my summer hunting walnut trees, they are an elusive species. I must admit I’m a bit obsessed. Technically a walnut is the seed of a drupe and is therefore not a true botanical nut. Drupe butter doesn’t have quite the same ring.
The taste: I am already running out of interesting ways to say ‘Yum, this tastes nutty’.
The verdict: Yum, this tastes nutty, 8/10
4. Hazelnut butter
I ran out of time to mak this.
The taste: Rumoured to be great.
The verdict: Average by default 5/10
5. Pistachio butter
This unusually aromatic nut was apparently well known to our old friend Pliny the Elder, who appears to be featuring rather prominently on this blog. I chucked some ground cardamon into this batch for good measure.
The taste: Looks like a cowpat, tastes like pistachios.
The verdict: I don’t think the buttering process has enhanced the taste experience, 5/10.
6. Pecan butter
Did you know pecan trees are prone to leaf blotch? Is the word blotch ever applied to a positive thing? I added a soupçon honey to this batch to enhance the toasty, buttery goodness. Om nom nom.
The taste: What wizardry is this?! It is somehow so much more than its constituent parts. I’m thinking about doing away with the spoon all together and just pouring this straight into my mouth.
The verdict: 9/10. Pecan’t get enough of it.
7. Almond nut butter
Another drupe apparently, they get everywhere! Almonds are native to the Middle East, India and North Africa. I like to think of them as the hipsters of the nut world. If they were people they would sport top nots, wear crop tops and grow ironic facial hair.
“Out of Africa, there is always something drupe.”
― Pliny the Elder
The taste: If I was marketing this product I would lable it ‘The paste without taste’. Actually I definitely wouldn’t. That would be a sales disaster.
The verdict: 4/10 Let’s be generous and say the flavour is ‘subtle’.
A special thanks to my two of my new favourite friends/enablers for joining my paste tasting party. I encorporated a number of their comments in my write up and flagrantly ignored the ones I didn’t agree with.