As some of you know by now, I am an enthusiast of all things home-made, self-taught, do-it-yourself, artsy craftsy, granny chic -- not so much out of ecological or economical motives, but because it's more fun to get off the grid for a bit (down with secular materialism!) and understand the provenance of all things.
Today, this mission took me into the realm of nut butters. I adore nuts and nut butters, from the most basic and most American of all, peanut butter, to the more obscure macadamia nut butter and pine nut butter. My ultimate comfort food, and favorite breakfast, is a piece of warm toast spread with a thick layer of salty nut butter, topped with sliced banana. What could be a better way to start the day?
The question I have started to ask myself, having tackled mayonnaise and salad dressings and stock, is why do I keep buying the jarred stuff, when nut butter should be perfectly easy to make at home? Not to mention the fact that, last time I checked, almond butter had hit $11.00 a jar. Yowsers.
Turns out, nut butters are very easy, and fast, and -- oh my goodness -- delicious to boot. So why haven't I done this before?
A quick perusal of google.com turned up many versions of home-made nut butters, including a YouTube video on making nut butters with a juicer! I settled on a basic food processor version, which I revised as follows:
1. Select whole nuts of good quality. I used walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts for the nut butters that I made today. Cashew, macadamia, sunflower seeds, and peanuts are also commonly used for nut butters. Each of these nuts has a different flavor, so pick the kind that you like most. Walnut has a bitter, almost astringent taste, while macadamia and cashews are quite sweet. (Remember that nuts go rancid very quickly, so if you are buying in bulk, store them in the freezer. And if you have a nut allergy, good heavens, don't try this at home!)
2. Dry roast 1-2 cups of nuts on a tray in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned but not scorched, stirring the tray once or twice. See my lovely photos above of roasted almonds and pine nuts? Granted, the almonds came already roasted, so I suppose I made double-roasted almond and pine nut butter. Wow.
3. Put the roasted nuts in a food processor (read: Cuisinart) and process for several minutes, until the mixture goes past the granular phase and becomes smooth. Scrape down the sides of the food processor to incorporate all of the batter. When the mixture begins to creep up the sides and the blade is spinning on empty, add several tablespoons of a neutral oil, like olive oil or walnut oil, until you get a creamy, almost runny mixture. It's OK for the mixture to be runny in the food processor; once it has cooled down or been in the refrigerator a while, the nut butter will firm up quite a bit, so at this point, runny is better. Add salt if you like, to taste.
4. Store nut butter in a jar and keep in the refrigerator if you are not planning to consume the whole lot within the next two weeks. I think that, in the future, I will make smaller batches and leave them out of the refrigerator, because I don't like my nut butters to be too firm when I try to spread them.
Today I ate a snack of almond and pine nut butter spread on a banana and dotted with raisins -- the classic "ants on a log" that I have been eating since childhood.
I also pulled together a walnut butter that was much improved by a little honey; as I already mentioned, walnuts can be bitter, but honey and walnuts is another classic combination -- it reminds me of Greek baklava and the little Arab pastries that I ate in the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem several years ago, all honey and nuts and sweet goodness.
Now the only problem is how to get these little jars of nutty delights back with me to New York, what with all of the weight restrictions that the airlines are slapping on to luggage these days: