The Perilous Pleaures of Nut Butters

January 11, 2008 at 1:22 am (My brain, Product Reviews, unrated)

If I haven’t already made this clear, Derek is a peanut butter fiend. He can go through a whole jar in just a few days. He starts off every day with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he’ll often follow that with several spoonfuls of peanut butter in the afternoon, only to finish the day off with a bowl of ice cream drizzled with peanut butter. (He sometimes gives me a taste and I must admit it is an amazingly tasty combination.)

His is a picky passion, however: he’s tried just about every natural brand of peanut butter there is, and dismisses them all, proclaiming that none lives up to plain old, old-fashioned Smuckers. Even the organic Smuckers he claims tastes inferior. (He’s also extremely picky about the jam for his pb&j, insisting on Smuckers grape jam. To his dismay, Smuckers grape jam apparently does not exist in Montreal, nor anything similar for that matter. If you know of a source, please post a comment. You’ll make Derek very happy. And no, he does not find Welch’s grape jelly acceptable.)

Whoops! Back to the nut butter saga….

A few years ago we discovered almond butter at the East End food co-op, then branched out to cashew butter. Everytime I brought Derek to the co-op he would buy extravagant (or so it seemed to me) amounts of nut butters from the bulk bins. Given his love of nut butters, I decided to surprise Derek with a selection of Quebec nut butters when he arrived in Montreal last week. We tried:

  • almond hazelnut
  • macadamia cashew
  • sunflower seed
  • pumpkin seed
  • hazelnut

The almond hazelnut was a big hit. Given the lack of Smuckers peanut butter, Derek took to drizzling almond hazelnut butter on top of butterscotch ripple ice cream. Although I don’t share Derek’s dangerous infatuation for nut butters, I have to admit that this combination proved to be the best ice cream experience I’ve had in a long time, even better than the gourmet gelatos at Jean Talon or Atwater. We also tried topping the ice cream with plain hazelnut butter but it wasn’t nearly as good as the almond/hazelnut combo. The hazelnut tasted too bitter. However, I know from previous experience that the hazelnut butter goes wonderfully with anything chocolate or cocoa-y.

I’ve already described my love of sunflower seed butter on my blog, but strangely Derek doesn’t care for it. I wasn’t very fond of the Montreal brand either. I still have some of my American sunbutter left though, and love to eat it spread on a banana for a snack.

The pumpkin seed butter was new to both of us. I liked it, but the flavor doesn’t lend itself to eating plain or on bread like other butters. I think it will be good to cook with though.

A word of caution: if you’re not Derek and take more than a week to go through a jar of nut butter, I highly recommend keeping it in the refrigerator, as the natural nut butters (unlike Skippy and Jif) have no emulsifiers or transfats or other preservatives, and go rancid very quickly at room temperature. As I understand, rancid oils are very bad for you, and it’s best to throw them out at the first hint of rancidity. My friends sometimes say they don’t know what rancid nuts or nut butter taste like, and it’s a bit hard to explain. Have you ever been eating peanut M&M’s and gotten a bad one, or one that just tasted weird? It was probably rancid.

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