Undoubtedly a staple diet in almost every U.S family! And now it's getting fanfare all round the world because of its unique flavour. Its bittersweet taste makes it a favourite with everyone- be it an adult, kid or a junkee! Traditionally used in the ever famous "peanut butter sandwich", gourmets use it in pastas and salads too- all left to the chef's imagination.
It is a paste made primarily from roasted and ground peanuts, which when combined with oil give the perfect emulsion. In some types of gourmet peanut butter, chocolate or other ingredients may be added.
To make peanut butter at home, roast the peanuts on a slow flame, till they turn light brown in colour. Once roasted, cool the peanuts quickly in order to prevent carry over cooking. This will also ensure that the natural oils will remain intact. Remove the outer skin of the peanuts (which will come off easily). Grind them along with hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar and salt as to taste. The oil acts as a natural stabilizer since it keeps the natural peanut oil from separating from the peanut butter and rising to the surface. However, since it won't have the added stabilizers that commercially produced peanut butter would, it is advisable to stir the home made peanut butter once in few days (since oil may resurface to the top).
How to select
While purchasing commercial peanut butter, ensure that you check the manufacturing date and expiry date details. Peanut butter should be chosen keeping in mind how natural and unprocessed it is: raw peanut butter, with skin, is much more nutritious (and less likely to be contaminated by aflatoxin), so look for that "natural" label.
However, if you are preparing peanut butter at home, ensure to use good quality peanuts for the recipe.
· The most common, easy and most definitely the favourite way to use peanut butter are to use as a spread for sandwiches.
· Use them in bakeries to make delicious peanut butter cookies, choco peanut butter bars etc.
· They can also be used innovatively in a variety of cheesecakes and pie crusts.
· Use them in combination with choco chips to make crunchy cakes.
· Apart from using it for desserts, one can use peanut butter as a base to make spicy peanut butter dressings for salads.
· It is also used to make sauces which is used in Oriental cookery.
How to store
Being very high in fat content, peanut butter run the risk of getting rancid, so proper storage is of utmost importance. Homemade peanut butter should be refrigerated in tightly-sealed containers and ideally used within a couple of weeks. Turn the container
upside-down occasionally to help redistribute the oils. Natural peanut butters should be refrigerated after opening and can be kept up to six months. Commercial varieties require no refrigeration and can be kept up to six months after opening. Unopened jars can be stored up to one year in a cool, dark location away from light and humidity. However, please note that freezing is not a very good option for storing peanut butter.
When badly preserved, it can host the mold Aspergillus flavus, which produces aflatoxin (a very toxic and carcinogenic substance), so your best bet is to always go with natural peanut butter.
· In general, raw peanut butter (less refined) is better than refined, because it retains many of the beneficial nutrients found in the skin; in addition, processed peanut butter might contain added trans-fatty acids (which have been shown to increase the risk of cardio circulatory diseases).
· Peanut butter is a rich source of vitamins. It is a good source of Biotin, also called Vitamin H. Biotin is a member of the B-complex family which is essential for the normal metabolism of fat and protein as well as for the absorption of vitamin C. Biotin is also said to be good for the hair. Its rich folate and niacin (vitamin B3) content helps increase the HDL (good cholesterol) level by as much as 30%, In addition to this, peanut butter contains much higher quantities of antioxidants than apples or carrots. This is because it is an excellent source of vitamin E, a potent anti oxidant which protects polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes from free-radical attack, thus helping prevent cancer.
· Proteins are present in high amounts together with moderate amounts of beneficial minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and calcium. Iron is essential for the correct functioning of your red blood cells, while calcium promotes healthy bones and shields against muscle spasms.
· Although not among the richest foods in potassium, peanut butter still contains fairly good amounts of it, and research has indicated that diets rich in potassium reduce the risk of hypertension.