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…nuts!…

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Disturbing to me, is that somehow nuts have become the pariah of the culinary world. Not that it’s through any fault of their own – somehow, for whatever reason, nut allergies have exploded, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are about as welcome in the schoolyards as a chain smoking pedophile. Not that there is anything remotely amusing about anaphylactic shock. Maybe it’s proof that God really exists, and he doesn’t like us so much anymore. Or maybe it’s some further bit of Darwinism at work – the better (worse?) evolution of the species, homo sapiens…

Growing up, peanut butter was everywhere, and it’s long been one of the most ethereal of foods I’ve ever known. The smell of it, the flavor, the texture. They way it sensates a mouth and sinuses completely and perfectly. You cannot eat it hastily, and the succulent manner in which the fat coats the tongue, gums, and palate, leaving the flavor to linger, is virtually unparalleled by any other thing we eat. Maybe, and it’s a BIG maybe, bacon comes close. Maybe.

I’ve never been a fan of the big name peanut butters, the ‘Skippy’, and ‘Jiffy’ sorts always seemed more like a variation of cheese in a can, at least in texture, and intensity of flavor. At a fairly young age, we were turned onto the ‘oily and gritty’ sort that you had to stir before using. I like things that leave grease stains on stuff. Not my clothes so much, but the bread, the paper towel holding it, a paper bag it’s placed in… If some food leaves that tell tale sign of translucency caused by grease, I know I’m in for something good.

Making peanut butter is actually remarkably simple, especially in this day and age when almost everyone owns a food processor. Even better is you’re never limited to peanuts, or peanut butter at all. A world of choices, combinations of different nuts, seasonings that take it to sweet, hot, salty, all sit ready and waiting for your imagination to take hold. The really fatty nuts work best, of course, and someday, I’m going to try Macadamia nuts (the fattiest of all!). Usually, though, I stick to walnuts, because they’re just ever so slightly astringent. I love the slight pucker of all tannins, as in a strong tea, or well hopped ale, or quinine in tonic water, they way they leave the mouth sort of happily unsatisfied, waiting for a little bit more to come…

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Today, I’ve got about 3 cups of walnuts, and about a cup of pecans. I’ve sorted them onto a baking sheet lined with foil…

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I’ve taken the liberty of coaxing my oven into a 325 degree state, preheating it for a spell so the nuts have a place to roast. Roasting them is essential, and another area one can play a bit, as Maillard reactions change the raw and grassy flavors into something complex, deep brown and meaty. I let these go for about 15 minutes, shake the pan, then another 10 minutes…

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They’re slightly browner now – the pecans more so than the walnuts, but the temperature of the oils inside will keep them cooking for a while after they’re out of the oven. Trial and error for the first few batches taught me this lesson. Let them sit and cool down to room temperature, then taste them. If a few are burnt, toss them out, if you don’t like the way they’ve come to be tasting…

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And now place them in the food processor. If need be, work in batches, as it’s a good way to burn up a perfectly good food processor with the sludgy thick frictious entity about to be created…

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And now some seasonings. I start with a tablespoon of kosher salt…

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And a teaspoon of dark brown sugar…

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Working in 3 to 5 second pulses, first you’ll wind up with a lumpy mass of chopped nuts…

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A few more rounds of 3 to 5 second pulses and you’ll begin to see something resembling coarse wet sand… Taste the seasonings now to see if you want more salt or sugar… Or cinnamon, or cayenne…

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Continue to work in pulses, though you can go a bit longer now, say 8 or 10 seconds. You’ll see the consistency change into something more liquid in appearance… If you want crunchy, throw in a few whole nuts and pulse until they’re chopped. Otherwise, transfer to a container for safe keeping…

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Et viola! Walnut pecan butter! Store in the refrigerator. Nut oils are delicate and will oxidize quickly and easily (i.e. turn rancid), if left at room temperature…

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “…nuts!…

  1. MMMMMM!! A little Chocolate and you’d have home made nutella as well…. Do you think hazelnuts and pecans would work? Are hazelnuts oily enough/

    I love this… it’s fun!!!!

    Posted by Mamapotpie | May 18, 2011, 1:29 am
  2. I like almond butter – Mmmmmm – almonds, my favorite nut :-)I usually just grind my own at the grocery store, but I might just have to try this at home.

    Posted by kristinpotpie | May 18, 2011, 3:32 am
  3. Let’s have a sandwich on white bread with milk.. . .

    Posted by Will the old one | May 22, 2011, 8:24 pm

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