Friday, October 5, 2012

Spicy Homemade Peanut Butter

I heard on the news this week that a peanut butter recall is going on nationwide so it seemed like a good time to publish this particular post.

Any time I make something that's readily available in a store I think of my mother and smile.  A few years back I called to chat and she asked me what I had done that day.  When I replied that I had baked hamburger buns there was this pause on the other end of the line.  Then she said, "why would anyone make hamburger buns when you can buy perfectly good ones at the store?"  Therein lies the difference between us.  I make things because it's fun.  Or because I've never tried them before.  My mother, on the other hand, was the original devotee of boiling bags and all things microwaved.  She gave away her pots and pans and now owns exactly one small knife that I think she uses to slice bananas.  The servers at local restaurants know her by name.  She occasionally wonders aloud how she could have a daughter who likes to cook - she primarily likes to discuss politics. 

Anyway, I was surfing the Internet looking for a recipe for a sandwich from the Dominican Republic and ended up finding one for spicy peanut butter from the Dominican Republic instead.  Of course I was immediately intrigued because I've never made peanut butter before.  It didn't seem too hard - all you do is grind up some peanuts with a little oil, salt and a hot pepper - so I ran out and bought the ingredients and some cute little jars.

The name of the peanut butter is Mamba.  It's made in varying degrees of spiciness by using anything from no peppers at all to using scotch bonnets, one of the hottest peppers on earth.  For my first experiment I decided to use a jalapeno because I was familiar with the degree of heat it has.  I first added half a pepper and The Lawyer and I both tasted it.  We could barely taste any heat at all so I added the remainder.  It still has just a slightly spicy flavor so the peanuts and oil must suck up the heat somehow. (technical explanation)  The overall flavor is more fresh than normal peanut butter and the texture is lighter and less sticky. It's great on toast or anywhere else you normally use peanut butter.  Next time I make it I think I'll experiment with adding some mild chile powder in addition to the jalapeno.  That's the fun of making your own!  If spicy isn't your thing, think of adding some cinnamon instead of the pepper - cinnamon and peanut butter go really well together.  Or how about pumpkin pie spice?  Get creative and you can experiment with all kinds of flavor combinations.

I used unsalted dry-roasted peanuts and noted that I needed a full two tablespoons of peanut oil to make it turn into a paste when the recipe only called for one.  I have the feeling that the author used oil-roasted, not dry-roasted peanuts.  Just be aware if you try the recipe that the amount of oil will vary according to what type of peanuts you use.  Be sure to use unsalted peanuts or taste before adding the salt if you can only find salted peanuts.

So, if you're one of those curious people like me, give it a try and see what you think.  It's really easy and you don't have to run out and get cute jars, you could just put it in any container you have to refrigerate it.  But I had seen these jars at Crate and Barrel and it was a great excuse to buy a couple.

* * click here for a printable recipe * *

Spicy Homemade Peanut Butter
Makes about 4 ounces

1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 spicy pepper (such as jalapeno or hotter), stemmed and seeded
½ teaspoon salt

Pulse the peanuts in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Add oil, one tablespoon at a time, to make the paste smoother to your liking. Add half the pepper and the salt and pulse until well mixed. Taste, and add the second half of the pepper if you want it spicier. Pulse again until smooth.

Pour into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid and keep refrigerated.

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