DIY: Make Peanut Butter
Grow Your Own Peanut Butter!
By Jim Hunter, Arkansas
Peanut butter is one of our favorite foods. We became disenchanted with the commercial brands after seeing other ingredients on their labels such as sugar, salt, etc. When our local food co-op went out of business we began making our own.
Peanut butter is a high energy food. It is rich in protein, B vitamins, and minerals. It has NO cholesterol and contains 50 percent mono-unsaturated fats, which are said to help reduce cholesterol.
It was invented by a St. Louis physician, but his identity was lost along with the details about is creation. He did grind up peanuts to make an easily digested, nourishing food for his older patients. It does have a tendency to stick to the palate, so the doctor’s frail patients were probably also given a glass of milk to wash it down. The process was later patented by the Kellogg family of Battle Creek, Michigan, and peanut butter became a common food item in mental institutions.
You might try growing your own peanuts. They are an interesting crop to grow. The peanut is really a vegetable and is a member of the same legume family which includes peas and beans.
The crop loves warm weather and requires 140 days. Because the plants can survive light frosts of spring and fall, peanuts can mature as far north as New England and Canada.
Start seedlings indoors a month before your last expected frost. Use large pots filled with regular garden soil, as these plants’ roots dislike being disturbed. Plant the seeds one inch deep and water them weekly. Provide them with bright light. They will sprout in 10-14 days.
If you plant them outdoors they will not germinate until the soil temperature reaches at least 65º. Seeds go two inches deep and five inches apart with rows spaced 24-26 inches apart.
When you are planting the seeds you can plant them hulled or unhulled. If you shell your peanuts, DO NOT remove the paper-thin pinkish covering over the seeds or they will not germinate.
The plants do well in ordinary to fertile garden soil. Don’t fertilize heavily or you’ll get lush plants but little fruit. If your soil is deficient in calcium, add lime or gypsum six weeks prior to planting. An organic inoculant can really increase production, and can be sprinkled over the seeds before covering them with soil.
After the plants are up 12 inches, hill the rows, putting soil high around each plant, as peanut plants grow up out of the ground and then send their nut-making runners back into the ground. Mulch between plants is also a good idea at this time. The plants grow with few problems.
The leaves will turn yellow before harvest time, which is usually in the early fall. You can check to see if kernels are ripe by digging a few every couple of days and checking the inner shells for a good-marked vein. Don’t wait too long to harvest or the pods will break off in the ground.
Pull up the entire plant, shake off as much dirt as possible, and let the plants sun dry for two or three weeks. Or spread them out in a cool, dry place. Shelled peanuts can be frozen.
To roast, bake them in the shells for 20 minutes at 300º. Folks around here enjoy them green—cleaned, but undried, and boiled in their shells in salty water for 1-1/2 hours and served warm as snacks.
Here are a couple of easy peanut butter recipes to try:
Plain Peanut Butter
1-1/2 cup whole or chopped peanuts
1-3 tablespoons oil
1/4 tablespoon salt (optional)
Heat oven to 350º. Spread nuts in shallow pan and bake 10-15 minutes. Put warm or cooled nuts in blender and process on medium speed until smooth. Turn off the blender occasionally and use a spatula to push the mixture into the blades. Store in refrigerator. Stir blend in oil before using. Makes one cup.
Peanut Butter Mixture
1 lb. shelled, unroasted peanuts
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup wheat germ
Preheat oven to 300º, place peanuts on well-oiled baking sheet and roast them for 15 minutes, stirring often. Place all but 1/4 of the nuts in a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Chop the reserved nuts roughly and add them to the blended mixture. Makes one cup, which can be stored in the refrigerator for three weeks.
Originally published in the September/October 1990 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal.
What you’re making: Peanut Butter
What you’ll need: roasted peanuts in the shell, or raw peanuts and salt; a blender
What to do: If you start with raw peanuts—and of course the ideal master homesteader will start with homegrown raw peanuts—they will have to be roasted.
To do that, spread them in a single layer on cookie sheets or pizza pans. Put them into a 300º oven for 20-30 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned, stirring occasionally so they’ll be toasted on all sides. Shell the peanuts.
Put them in a blender with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (optional). Then run the blender as long as necessary to get the consistency you want.
Chunky peanut butter doesn’t take long. But you can blend them to a smooth buttery paste if you want to.
As soon as you taste a sample you’ll understand why homesteaders are always saying, “Homemade is better.” But also be aware that there is usually a price to pay for that extra taste (and nutrition), in addition to the extra work.
You’ll notice that the oil will rise to the top of your homemade peanut butter—and if you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when store-bought used to do that, and when chemicals were added to avoid the separation the peanut butter was advertised as “NEW! IMPROVED! HOMOGENIZED!” Simply stir it a bit before using.
Also, without preservatives, your homemade peanut butter will become rancid more easily than the commercial product. Make it in small batches and refrigerate it.
Peanut butter can also be canned or frozen.
Originally published in the March/April 1994 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal.