It won?t come as news to some, that I am a peanut butter fanatic. Both of my published books feature it heavily, from peanut butter bread and hot chocolate in A Year In 120 Recipes to frozen yoghurts and satays and those adorable thumbprint cookies in A Girl Called Jack. As far back as I can remember into my childhood, I would spoon peanut butter from the jar ? just one teaspoon, and replace the lid, my snack of choice, and a slurp of milk to wash it from the roof of my mouth.
Lately I have been trying to make better decisions about my shopping, from free range to FairTrade, without compromising the budget side of my blog that I know is so important to my readers. I try to strike a balance, between ethical choices and necessities, and have often come under fire for choosing free range eggs or FairTrade bananas ? I do genuinely understand that sometimes there is no luxury of choice, if your finances are hacked back to the bone then your priority is to feed yourself and your family. I get that, I really do. So I don?t tell people what they ?should? be doing, because I don?t dare, I mean, I?m a stubborn filly myself and if someone tells me sanctimoniously that I ?should? do something then my instinct is to dig my heels in and do the opposite!! I just talk about what I do, and why, and have generally found my blog and Facebook page to be a much more supportive community because of it. Often it comes down to choosing your values ? do you value free range over organic, or organic over FairTrade? Because it?s hard to have it all. I believe the little choices matter. In the last few years I have seen barn eggs go from taking up an entire supermarket shelf, to being a small sad thing at the bottom tucked out of the way. Free range has become so commonplace that the margin between happy eggs and sad eggs is negligible. In some supermarkets all of their bananas, from the Basics range upwards, are FairTrade. Good choices are easier than ever. And those that are in a position to make those choices far outweigh those who have to buy products that they may not agree with in a perfect world.
I had a few messages this week from readers about peanut butter, which is what this is really about. People buying the cheapest varieties and ?turning a blind eye? to the Palm Oil added to them. I don?t know enough about palm oil to be able to get up on a soapbox about it, but I?ve seen enough sad orangutans and photographs of devastation and deforestation for it to make me feel distinctly uneasy. So I?m trying to avoid it. Sadly, it seems to have snuck into everything over the last few years; where Sunflower Oil was once the lubricant of choice, now if you look closely at the ingredients lists on the backs of packets of sauces and dips and all sorts of goodies, there?s the palm oil. And especially cheap peanut butter. I once sat on the floor in my local supermarket examining all of the jars of peanut butter, looking for one that didn?t have palm oil in. I laid them all on the floor (asked twice by a member of staff if I was ?alright there, Miss??), and scrutinised the backs. When I had the few jars that contained sunflower or peanut oil, I calculated the cost per gram to find the cheapest one. It was, for the record, Sun Pat Crunchy, at three times the price of the Basics brand. I bought it, and used it for my recipes.
And on Monday, shopping in the supermarket, I spied a bag of salted peanuts, 70p for 200g. I remembered my friend Andree once proudly presenting me with a jar of peanut butter she had made herself in her blender. I bought the peanuts, determined to bypass the palm oil problem and present an affordable solution for my readers. So here we are:
Makes a 275g jar of peanut butter for 88p:
200g peanuts, 70p (Sains Basics salted peanuts 70p/200g)
50ml sunflower oil, 6p (£4/3l)
2 tbsp honey, 12p (Basics honey £1/340g)
The Basics peanuts are rather salty, but cheaper for it. I started by roasting mine in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes to deepen the flavour.
Remove from the oven and tip into a bowl, and cover with cold water. This will soften them to make them easier to blend, and remove some of the salt. Leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.
Drain the peanuts and rinse thoroughly, and tip them into a blender. I used an ordinary jug blender for this, which gave a crunchy, textured peanut butter. If you are one of the lucky people who has a food processor, that would be my equipment of choice, but a blender does the job. Add the oil to loosen it ? you may need to stop-start your blender and scrape the peanuts from the sides and mix it up a bit a few times.
Blend until the peanuts have broken down and are staring to form a paste, and then tip into a bowl. I added honey to sweeten ? I toyed with the idea of using coconut oil instead of sunflower to sweeten it but my 5 year old son despises coconut, so I opted for a sunflower oil and honey combo instead.
And voila. Spoon into a jar and press down, and enjoy. I made mine fairly runny with extra oil so I could store it in the fridge, as I didn?t use a sterilised jar ? as this is a first time experiment I?m not sure what the shelf life is but at a wild guess it would keep for 4 weeks in the fridge, I?ll report back if it?s wildly different to that.
And there you go. Home made cheap peanut butter, as crunchy or as smooth as you like, with no sad orangutans. Enjoy.
Jack Monroe. I?m on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe and if you like my blog then you might just like my book, which is available from http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/