The Peanut Butter Conundrum

So I like peanut butter. I may even go so far as to say that I love peanut butter. As a kid, I would eat peanut butter at least 2 meals of the day, if not 3 (4 if you count an after-school snack). I would eat PB sandwiches, PB on celery, and yes, even PB on cheddar cheese. I’m not sure what I would do were I a kid now, where quite often, kids aren’t allowed to bring PB to school, because of all the allergies. I may well have starved.

But all of this is not my conundrum, it’s more of an introduction the depth of my love of PB, and why this is a problem. Y’see, there are 2 qualities to PB that one must weigh when deciding which PB to buy: taste, and spreadability. Some add a third criteria, which is nutritional information, but I really don’t care about that.

Were taste my only criterion, I would only ever buy all-natural, organic PB. The kind that comes in the jar all separated and you have to mix it up (confession: I hate mixing PB, and I try and foist this job off on to Leah whenever possible. But I like the taste of natural PB so much more that I’m willing to go through this chore to get it). By contrast, were spreadability my only criterion, Squirrel PB would always win. It’s just so spreadable. Squirrel, more than any other brand I’ve used, goes on smooth and easy. It spreads with a nice thickness, and virtually never, ever cracks.

And so finally, we reach my conundrum. I love the taste of natural PB, but I hate that the jar, which I dutifully refrigerate after opening, becomes rock-solid, and virtually unspreadable after only a few days. Of your large-size Adams Natural jar, I’ll get a week’s worth of spreadable scrumptiousness before it solidifies into clumps, and instead of spreading my PB, I’m chopping it into little tiny pieces and arranging them next to each other on the bread. The small jars are better, but I go through those really quickly, which means both an added cost, and worse, more time spent mixing. For a while I thought I had it made in the shade with the President’s Choice all-natural PB, but the last 3 jars have been wretched. I’ve tried the little over-priced organic ones (with the tan label) available at Choices and Capers, but they were no better (although, they do taste really damn good. I wonder if it’s psychological because they say “Valencia Peanuts”, rather than just Peanuts).

If you don’t refrigerate at all, the all-natural PB just continually re-separates. If I turn down my fridge (making it less cold, thus, I would think, less likely to make my PB all crumbly), my milk starts to taste bad, which is a far worse problem.

So my conundrum, as expounded at length, is do I stick with All-natural, yummy-tasting PB and deal with the fact that I have to get little jars to retain spreadability? Or do I try keeping my PB somewhere else, and just keep re-mixing it? Or I sacrifice taste for emiment spreadability and buy Skippy or Squirrel PB? Do I, as a perhaps sensible compromise, alternate, so that I switch from one to the other when each’s respective faults start to drive me up the wall? Do any of you have any PB-storage solutions for me?

18 Replies to “The Peanut Butter Conundrum”

  1. Not really a solution you’ll jump for, but I can tell you that my mom always solved this problem (we always had natural peanut butter, I didn’t even know that other kind existed) by emptying out the whole jar into a food processor once it was opened and blending it up. This truly thorough mixing process seemed to actually generate enough of a dry/oil ratio that the jar stayed consistent almost the whole way through.

    When I moved out, I tried this myself and was only deeply annoyed by not only having to undertake the process (I too hate mixing peanut butter, though hate cleaning peanut butter jars more) but having to also clean the food processor. Ack! When I told my mother this, she simply suggested that I make peanut butter cookies after mixing, allowing me to get more bang for my one “dirty of the food processor” buck. As it were. I tried that a few times, but eventually got lazy.

    Other suggestions that have worked with varying success: 1. I always store my nut butters upside down until I open them, giving me the (likely false) hope that when I turn it over and open it, the mixing process will somehow be more thorough. Not convinced, but I still do it. 2. When you do end up with the manky ends of dry PB you can add a relatively flavourless oil (grapeseed, vegetable, sunflower) to what’s there and mix it up a bit. Works, though mildly dilutes the PB flavour.

    At this point, however, I only buy other nut butters as peanuts=death to Martin. So. We’re roasted almond butter people now. And it generally only comes in those small jars, so not so much with the separation problems.

    Oh, and don ‘t store your open PB outside of the fridge. PB goes off *really* quickly and will go rancid. That will make you unhappy.

  2. Not really a solution you’ll jump for, but I can tell you that my mom always solved this problem (we always had natural peanut butter, I didn’t even know that other kind existed) by emptying out the whole jar into a food processor once it was opened and blending it up. This truly thorough mixing process seemed to actually generate enough of a dry/oil ratio that the jar stayed consistent almost the whole way through.

    When I moved out, I tried this myself and was only deeply annoyed by not only having to undertake the process (I too hate mixing peanut butter, though hate cleaning peanut butter jars more) but having to also clean the food processor. Ack! When I told my mother this, she simply suggested that I make peanut butter cookies after mixing, allowing me to get more bang for my one “dirty of the food processor” buck. As it were. I tried that a few times, but eventually got lazy.

    Other suggestions that have worked with varying success: 1. I always store my nut butters upside down until I open them, giving me the (likely false) hope that when I turn it over and open it, the mixing process will somehow be more thorough. Not convinced, but I still do it. 2. When you do end up with the manky ends of dry PB you can add a relatively flavourless oil (grapeseed, vegetable, sunflower) to what’s there and mix it up a bit. Works, though mildly dilutes the PB flavour.

    At this point, however, I only buy other nut butters as peanuts=death to Martin. So. We’re roasted almond butter people now. And it generally only comes in those small jars, so not so much with the separation problems.

    Oh, and don ‘t store your open PB outside of the fridge. PB goes off *really* quickly and will go rancid. That will make you unhappy.

  3. Although I haven’t touched the stuff (it will be 5 years come 3 weeks!) in a while I too lived on it as a child. For breakfast lunch and dinner I would have burnt toast and loads of peanut butter. Thinking about it right now makes me hungry.

    I’m not sure if the Osoyoos climate has anything to do with it but we always kept our peanut butter outside of the fridge. My mom tried for a while to put it inside but we rebelled and moved it out as fast as possible.

    The problem with the lack of oil was always an issue that was really only solved by making sure to always stir every time you use it. It doesn’t take much time as long as you made sure to do it well the first time you opened. That means taking five minutes or so to really get the stuff all around and especially in the bottom.

    As for different types of peanut butter- I had no idea that it came with sugar until I went to a friend’s house and was disgusted by the taste. To this day I can’t stand the thought of sweet peanut butter. Certainly something good to be raised on I suppose so that you don’t develop that sugar sweet tooth 😉

  4. Although I haven’t touched the stuff (it will be 5 years come 3 weeks!) in a while I too lived on it as a child. For breakfast lunch and dinner I would have burnt toast and loads of peanut butter. Thinking about it right now makes me hungry.

    I’m not sure if the Osoyoos climate has anything to do with it but we always kept our peanut butter outside of the fridge. My mom tried for a while to put it inside but we rebelled and moved it out as fast as possible.

    The problem with the lack of oil was always an issue that was really only solved by making sure to always stir every time you use it. It doesn’t take much time as long as you made sure to do it well the first time you opened. That means taking five minutes or so to really get the stuff all around and especially in the bottom.

    As for different types of peanut butter- I had no idea that it came with sugar until I went to a friend’s house and was disgusted by the taste. To this day I can’t stand the thought of sweet peanut butter. Certainly something good to be raised on I suppose so that you don’t develop that sugar sweet tooth 😉

  5. My natural peanut butter just sits on a shelf in the cupboard, but I’ve never it go bad. I’ve heard PB is just something the micro-critters don’t like.

    Separating doesn’t count as going bad. Anyway, I’ve never had problems just re-mixing it.

    Or perhaps peanut butter doesn’t stand a chance of a decent shelf-life in my house. And that’s despite two little boys who can’t have any.

    poor things.

  6. My natural peanut butter just sits on a shelf in the cupboard, but I’ve never it go bad. I’ve heard PB is just something the micro-critters don’t like.

    Separating doesn’t count as going bad. Anyway, I’ve never had problems just re-mixing it.

    Or perhaps peanut butter doesn’t stand a chance of a decent shelf-life in my house. And that’s despite two little boys who can’t have any.

    poor things.

  7. if you buy the natural PB in bulk (i.e. freshly made), the oil won’t have had a chance to separate yet and thus no stirring is required. (and you can also buy it in pretty big containers.)

    my fave place for this kind of PB in vancouver is dollar grocer on commercial, right next to the JJ Bean on the corner of east 5th.

  8. I can vouch for the bulk-buying, too — I buy small quantities in the bulk food store, and because it comes in those wide & shallow containers, the mixing is easy & you use it up before it has a chance to separate! Mmm, perfect.

  9. I can vouch for the bulk-buying, too — I buy small quantities in the bulk food store, and because it comes in those wide & shallow containers, the mixing is easy & you use it up before it has a chance to separate! Mmm, perfect.

  10. I hate it when food is a pain in the ass, so I won’t mix. My partner, on the other hand, will only eat natural so she doesn’t mind the mix. She’s even made her own on a couple of occasions, which is the kind of ambition that makes me feel lazy. I’m a Kraft guy. Maybe this was a result of my upbringing, as this was what I ate until I was 15, so I’m used to it. Isn’t the cheap stuff more icing sugar than peanuts? I’m not sure if it’s right to call it peanut butter, but I like it.

  11. I hate it when food is a pain in the ass, so I won’t mix. My partner, on the other hand, will only eat natural so she doesn’t mind the mix. She’s even made her own on a couple of occasions, which is the kind of ambition that makes me feel lazy. I’m a Kraft guy. Maybe this was a result of my upbringing, as this was what I ate until I was 15, so I’m used to it. Isn’t the cheap stuff more icing sugar than peanuts? I’m not sure if it’s right to call it peanut butter, but I like it.

  12. if you buy the natural PB in bulk (i.e. freshly made), the oil won't have had a chance to separate yet and thus no stirring is required. (and you can also buy it in pretty big containers.)

    my fave place for this kind of PB in vancouver is dollar grocer on commercial, right next to the JJ Bean on the corner of east 5th.

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