Friday, February 18, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Nuts to You

Michael loves peanut butter.  I mean he luhuhuhuvs it!  When he opens a new jar he unscrews the lid, reverently peels back the seal, brings the jar to his nose, inhales deeply, and then exhales with an Aaaahhhh!  I watch this all with amusement, waiting for him to tell me where those peanuts came from, the terroir of the field, and if the nuts contain a hint of fruit or spice.  He is truly a sommelier of peanut butter.  Me, not so much.

I lived most of my life in central Pennsylvania near a farm called Walnut Acres.  Walnut Acres has been growing and producing organic foods since way before it was cool.  When I first started shopping there as a teenager I didn't know this.  I just knew they made really yummy peanut butter.  And not just peanut butter but different varieties of nut butter.  Almond Butter.  Cashew Butter.  Raw Peanut Butter.  Roasted Peanut Butter.  Honey Peanut Butter.  And my personal favorite, Honey Sesame Seed Peanut Butter.  I introduced these to Michael and he was ecstatic.  Forget crackers, or bread, or celery sticks, just give him a spoon and he could do real damage to a new jar.

Since we moved away from PA we haven't been able to purchase a nut butter that matched up to our memories of Walnut Acres butters.  I've been curious about making nut butters in the food processor so I finally gave it a try.  Of course I didn't start out with peanuts.  I started with almonds.  Smoked almonds bought from the store to be exact.  I didn't want to waste our hard earned collected and shelled nuts if the experiment went awry.  So armed with coupons I headed to the store to buy Emerald nuts which were on sale BOGO.  I bought roasted walnuts, smoked almonds, and cocoa roasted almonds.
I was totally surprised how easy it was!

Today I made Walnut Honey Butter and Chocolate Almond Butter. I'll walk you through the walnut.

If you are using your own raw nuts toast them first in the oven or microwave and allow to cool completely.

I fitted the food processor with the steel blade and dumped in two 11 oz containers of the Emerald walnuts. 

Start them off by pulsing until they're pretty well chopped up

Next, turn the processor on and allow to run for a few minutes to turn the nuts into a paste.  Stop from time to time to scrape down the sides and check on the progress.  This step didn't take very long with the walnuts.  The almonds had to process a couple of minutes longer.

At this point you can pinch a little of the nut paste together and it will hold it's shape

Add your sweetener if you choose to use any and flavorings now.  I added 2 tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Since the walnuts were already salted I didn't add any more.  Pulse a few times to mix in.

Here is where the walnut butter was different from the almond butters.  At this point when I had a flavored paste with the almonds, it really wasn't spreadable.  I added a neutral flavored oil a tablespoon at a time until the paste got to a nice spreadable butter consistency.  This wasn't necessary with the walnut paste.  I don't know if walnuts contain a higher amount of oil than almonds or if it was just this particular batch of walnuts but they went from paste to butter with no added oil.

I tasted one more time to see if I needed to add any more honey or salt, was satisfied and spooned it into jars.

22 oz of nuts yielded a pint and a half of nut butter.

Home made nut butters are not shelf stable.  They need to be refrigerated where they will keep for a long time or they can be frozen.  There may be some separation of oil during storage.  Just mix it back in before using.

I made three different butters in all:
Smoked Almond Maple using smoked almonds and sweetened with maple syrup and a touch of maple extract and walnut oil to smooth it into a butter.  This was our favorite, hands down.

Chocolate Almond using the cocoa roasted almonds, vanilla extract, and canola oil.  I didn't add any sweetener to this because there was already enough in the coating Emerald used on the nuts.  It was okay but I know I can make it much better using a good cocoa powder and my own choice of sweetener.  It was pretty obvious in the end product that Emerald does not use a good quality cocoa in the production of these nuts.

Walnut Honey as described above.  We like this.  Definitely a keeper.

Now I feel confident about trying a pecan butter next with the nuts we collected from James' tree.


  1. this is a great and v helpful post. I love and will try- the combo of maple and pecan (i have tossed raw pecans w/ warm maple syrup and then smoked them in our smoker. yummmm.) One suggestion>> it seems to me that the nuts will go to a paste much easier/faster if they are pureed while warm.

  2. I really wish I could find something like the Walnut Acres Honey Sesame Seed Peanut Butter. There is literally NOTHING like it that I know of. If you ever discover a recipe, or an alternative, please post! :)

  3. Michael has unselfishly volunteered to be the guinea pig in the Honey Sesame Seed Peanut Butter Reconstruction Project. Check back often, we're on a mission!