Peanuts aka groundnuts aka goobers aka pindars are a bit of a botanical anomaly. Many people know they’re part of the legume family rather than a true nut, meaning during Thanksgiving dinner they’d be sitting with black-eyed peas and garbanzo beans. What’s peculiar, however, is that peanuts flower above ground but fruit and ripen underground. The plant starts off looking a lot like the common old pea, eventually putting off tiny, red-veined, yellowish-orange flowers that only last a day or so. As soon as the flowers wither, the stalk or peg continues to grow and reach for the earth, eventually burying its ends. Once deep enough, the tips transform into the characteristic spongy pods, which house the oily, delicious seeds we know as peanuts.
Peanuts were brought to North America by way of slave ships and are now cultivated in four varieties along the 13-state Peanut Belt. About half our national crop becomes peanut butter, though ~300 other conclusions are known, including oil, flour, snacks, milk, plastics, and shaving cream. Botanist and former slave Dr. George Washington Carver had a huge hand in popularizing the industry (and versatility), as did P.T. Barnum’s circus wagons, vaudeville theaters, and baseball games.
Admittedly, our own attachment started with us growing up eating peanut butter and jelly sammies, which evidently came to prominence amongst WWII army men. This devotion has 100% persisted into adulthood—pb&js remain a go-to, high-protein lunch or snack for us. Below we are sharing our basic nut butter formula.
This recipe is simple as can be, and the food processor does all the work. The motor may ask for a break when grinding down those nuts; that’s normal. You can easily replace the peanuts here with any other nut, and season to your liking.
Yield: About 2 cups
4 cups raw, unsalted shelled peanuts, preferably skins off 2 tablespoons honey/maple syrup/sugar, or to taste (optional) 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Toast nuts for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they do not burn. Remove from cookie sheet/pan and let cool slightly.
2) Add nuts to food processor and let it have its way with them, stopping every couple minutes to scrape down the sides and give the motor a rest. It could take up to 10 minutes to go from whole to ground to paste to giant ball to glossy butter; you’ll know it when you see it.
3) Add sweetener and salt, if using, and mix to incorporate. The butter may seize up a bit if using honey or maple; just keep blending until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.