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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    northern Virginia
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    Peanut butter - what am I doing wrong?

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    Apologies for a dumb question. I've never been much of a peanut butter fan. We never had it when I was growing up. But in the past few months I started buying it as part of my quest to get more protein into my diet despite the fact that I don't like to cook, am not much good at it and don't have time to clean up afterwards. And to my pleasant surprise, I've found pb&j sandwiches to be filling enough to help me cut back on calories and start losing the weight that I gained from too much candy and dessert last fall/early winter. (In fact they're so filling I can't imagine having one in the middle of a bike ride, but I digress.)

    I've been buying a supermarket brand of natural peanut butter, the kind you have to stir and then store in the refrigerator. Here's my question -- when I first open a jar, it's ridiculously oily. I end up making a huge mess stirring the oil into it and the first sandwich I make has peanut butter oozing out the sides of the bread. Then it's okay for most of the jar. But each time I make a sandwich it gets a bit thicker and dryer, and by the time I reach the bottom of the jar it's very dry, hard to spread and not very appetizing.

    So what am I doing wrong? I try to mix it thoroughly in the beginning. After that the oil doesn't separate any more so I don't stir it again. Is that the problem? Do you need to stir it every time? Or is this just not a good brand?

    And is there a way to stir it when you first open the jar so you don't make a huge mess? I use a butter knife and try to stir up from the bottom rather than just going in circles.

    (Yes I am over 50 and asking for help with pb&j sandwiches... )

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    Natural peanut butter does separate. I would stir it every time to make certain the oil is thoroughly combined with the nut butter.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    central NY
    Posts
    407
    If you can remember to do it, take the jar out of the refrigerator ahead of time and let the peanut butter warm up a bit. That may help.

    A couple of jars ago, I made a mess during the initial stir. A lot of oil spilled out and the pb was fine without it. So last time, I poured out some oil into a small jar, and carefully mixed the remainder. I have used some of that "extra" oil for cooking, but I'm saving it in case the peanut butter gets too dry. I've been on a peanut butter kick lately.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    5,856
    Quote Originally Posted by IBrakeforPastry View Post
    If you can remember to do it, take the jar out of the refrigerator ahead of time and let the peanut butter warm up a bit. That may help.

    A couple of jars ago, I made a mess during the initial stir. A lot of oil spilled out and the pb was fine without it. So last time, I poured out some oil into a small jar, and carefully mixed the remainder. I have used some of that "extra" oil for cooking, but I'm saving it in case the peanut butter gets too dry. I've been on a peanut butter kick lately.
    Ooh, thinking outside the box, or the jar as it were. I could do this. It's too late for the current jar that I just opened and mixed for the first time. So I will mix it every time I open it and hope that helps. But in the future I will pour some of the oil into a storage jar and add it back later.

    Thanks!

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Utah
    Posts
    548
    I don't store mine in the refrigerator, and I do stir every time - it's easier to stir & spread when it's not cold. It's a little challenging to stir when you first open the jar. Usually I buy a new jar when I see the old one starting to run low, and then store the new jar upside-down for a few days before I open it. It starts moving the oil from the (real) top to the bottom. And when I stir, I really dig down to get the drier bits at the bottom redistributed.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    I keep mine in the refrigerator once I open it since I worry about aflatoxin - realistically a jar probably doesn't last long enough around my house that that's a real worry, but better safe than sorry IMO.

    It varies a lot from brand to brand, and sometimes even from batch to batch within a brand, just how much oil is in each batch. But yeah - taking it out of the fridge ahead of time, or just spooning whatever you plan to use onto your plate and letting that warm up before spreading - that helps. Or, since I have peanut butter in hot cereal much more often than I do on bread, I'll just nuke the cereal for 20-30 seconds after adding the PB, to warm it all back up.

    The other thing I do to help mix a jar that's been on the store shelf long enough to separate, is as soon as I get it home, I put it upside down on the counter. Leave it there until the oil is at the other end (opposite the lid). If the jar is really old, I might do that a couple times each side before attempting to stir it. Stirring with a knife rather than a spoon is less messy IME - I can kind of stab the solid parts to break them up, and mix with more of a gentle churning motion than a circular one, at least until it starts to get smoother. But it sounds like you're already doing that.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 05-14-2016 at 12:37 PM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    central NY
    Posts
    407
    I stab it with a knife, too, and let the oil seep into the crevices. Then stir, or it's more of a slicing motion, with the knife vertical.

    If I don't use all the extra oil, I like to kid myself into thinking how many calories I saved

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,204
    'Grandpa Witmer's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer‬' ftw! The lid cleans the stirring rod as you pull it out of the jar too. Make sure you get the right size lid for the peanut butter jar size you buy.
    ....and use the zen moment while stirring to think peaceful thoughts
    Last edited by rebeccaC; 05-15-2016 at 07:03 AM.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    5,856
    Quote Originally Posted by rebeccaC View Post
    'Grandpa Witmer's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer‬' ftw! The lid cleans the stirring rod as you pull it out of the jar too. Make sure you get the right size lid for the jar size you buy.
    ....and use the zen moment while stirring to think peaceful thoughts

    Oh wow! http://witmerproducts.com/pbutter.html

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    I've read that natural nut butters respond better to an up-and-down motion than stirring. I noticed they have two versions of this tool, one of which provides that motion. It's really hard to duplicate that motion without a special tool so I can't really say if it's better. I've tried to mimic it but haven't had much luck.

    Have you a good food processor? Nut butter is easy to make, and cheaper, if you've the inclination. I had to stop making pecan butter as it's like crack to me (all nut butters, really), but it does allow the ability to try different things.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    central NY
    Posts
    407
    I've been thinking of getting a food processor. Amazingly, I've never owned one (it looks like a hassle to clean). What "peanut butter specific" features should I look for?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
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    Well I'm lazy and buy my peanut butter. But the same principles apply to chickpeas (which is about all I use my food processor for). You want a powerful motor, since you'll be putting a lot of stress on it, way more than chopping herbs and vegetables would. A heavy base is nice so it doesn't skitter all over your counter. I don't know of any food processor that all the removable parts aren't dishwasher safe - the only part that's a hassle to clean is up inside the blade assembly where it fits over the drive shaft. The little brush that Camelbak sells to clean water bottle drink tubes is handy for that (the rigid plastic brush, not the flexible brush for drink tubes on wearable reservoirs). Also, like any kitchen appliance, if it has a flexible plastic cover so you can wipe right over the controls, rather than buttons that go through the case where crud accumulates, that's a plus.

    But what I was wondering is, is anyone else having an increasingly hard time finding peanut butter in glass jars? I'm not zero-tolerance when it comes to plastic packaging, but anything that's either high in acid or high in oil, I much prefer to buy in glass. Especially foods with a long shelf life that can sit around for months absorbing plasticizers.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 05-15-2016 at 07:56 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    Oakleaf hits the important parts - the more powerful the better. The motor on mine is good, but not quite powerful enough so that what I actually get is extremely finely ground nuts that are almost butter - but it serves my purposes just fine. I like doing it this way so that I can choose the nuts and any other ingredients - but it isn't for everyone.

    I hadn't noticed that Oakleaf. Do you have a local Trader Joes or Whole Foods? Both of them have most their nut butters in glass jars, at least around here.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    central NY
    Posts
    407
    I don't think I need a food processor. I'll just buy my peanut butter.

    The jar I have now is glass, but it's local, from the farmers market.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
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    10,957
    Quote Originally Posted by IBrakeforPastry View Post
    I don't think I need a food processor. I'll just buy my peanut butter.

    The jar I have now is glass, but it's local, from the farmers market.
    I only make mine because I can't have peanuts (which are legumes, not nuts), and it allows me to make nut butter out of my preferred nut - usually pecans. Pecan butter made from roasted nuts is just incredible

 

 

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