Monday, March 3, 2014

Nut Butters

If you're like me you probably learned in school that George Carver Washington was the inventor of Peanut Butter. So, that's what I was expecting to find while I was doing a quick search as to when he invented peanut butter. However, I soon realized that there is more to the history of this wonderful nut spread than was skimmed over while I was in school. To clarify George Carver Washington was the inventor of what we primarily know as the type of peanut butter we know today. However I found a recipe for Peanut Butter cookies dating back to 1848.

158. Peanut Butter Cookies I
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup lard
2 cups peanut butter Mix all ingredients adding flour last 2 eggs (well beaten) with soda and water. Drop on cookie
2 teaspoons baking soda sheet with teaspoon, press with fork. dissolved in Bake in 375° oven.
4 tablespoons warm water
3 cups flour added
Mix all the ingredients adding flour last with soda and water. Drop on cookie sheet with teaspoon, press with fork. Bake 375 degree oven.
Source: Random Recipes ©1846

So from this and other recipes we know that peanut butter has been quite a bit during the 19th century. From my next post we find that there were other 'nut butters' around but this publication is from the last year of the 19th century.

THE production of nut butter is a very simple process. The peanut and almond are the nuts that are chiefly used for this purpose; but the Brazil-nuts make a very fine butter. All of the nuts can be ground, but as they can not be blanched, they do not make a nice looking butter. The Spanish peanut has proved the most satisfactory for butter making, although some people prefer the Virginia variety. The first essential thing is to have a nut-grinding mill.
The first step is to roast the peanuts to a nice brown, being careful not to over-brown or scorch them, as too much cooking spoils the flavor. They can be roasted in an ordinary oven, but can be better done in a peanut roaster made especially for this purpose. As soon as they are roasted and cool, the skins or bran should be removed by rubbing them in the hands, or what is better, a coarse bag; or take a square piece of cloth and fold the edges together, forming a bag of it. The chaff can then be removed by the use of an ordinary fan, or by pouring from one dish to another where the wind is blowing. The process of removing the skins is called blanching. Next look them over carefully, remove all defective nuts and foreign substances, and they are ready for grinding. If a fine, oily butter is desired, adjust the mill quite closely, and place in the oven to warm. Feed the mill slowly, turn rapidly, and always use freshly roasted nuts; after they have stood a day or two they will not grind well nor make oily butter. If the butter is kept in a cool place in a covered dish, and no moisture allowed to come in contact with it, it will keep several weeks; and if put in sealed jars or cans, will keep indefinitely.
Heat the peanuts just sufficiently to remove the skins, but do not allow them to get brown; prepare them as described in a former recipe, and grind in a nut mill. Although the raw peanut butter is not as palatable as the roasted butter, it is considered more healthful and easier of digestion. It is also preferable to use in making soups and puddings, in cooking grains, and in seasoning vegetables. Food seasoned with this butter does not have that objectionable taste that the roasted peanut butter imparts; and if it is properly used, the peanut taste is almost entirely eliminated.
Almond butter is more difficult to make than peanut butter because the skins can not be so easily removed. Roasting does not loosen the skins of the almond as it does of the peanut. They have to be soaked in boiling water from two to five minutes; then the skins become loose and can be pinched off by pressing on the nut with the thumb and finger; the skin will crack and the kernel pop out. But by this process the nuts have soaked up some water and become tough. They must then be dried in the oven until quite crisp, but the oven must not be hot, or they will brown. Then run them through a loosely adjusted mill or a sausage grinder, and place on a cloth stretched over the stove until perfectlydry; then grind them in the nut-butter mill, quite tightly adjusted. This makes excellent butter if the almonds are first-class, and sweet.
Source: Guide for Nut Cookery: Together with a Brief History of Nuts and Their Food ©1899

Then I stumbled upon this interesting tidbit:
While nut meats are generally eaten without any previous preparation, they may be used in a variety of ways. Chopped nut meats are much relished for sandwiches, and nut salads arc not uncommon, while certain nuts are often used as stuffing for roast fowl. The use of nuts in cakes, confectionery, creams, etc., has already been alluded to. Many attempts have been made to prepare nut foods and to extend their use in various ways. Peanut butter, as it is called, is marketed to a considerable extent. This is said to consist of the kernels ground, with or without the addition of a small proportion of water.
The nuts, particularly the peanut and chestnut, afford interesting opportunities for the housewife skilled in adding to the list of " good things." Attention has been called to the fact that nuts form a very concentrated food. They should therefore be eaten with [more bulky] foods and, except in the case of the peanut, with those richer in protein.
There are no reliable data regarding the digestibility of nuts. The belief in their indigestibility seems to lie widespread, and perhaps has some basis in fact. It is quite probable that if the nuts were properly prepared and eaten at proper times much of this prejudice would disappear. Our present practice of munching them at odd hours, or as a dessert, when sufficient food has been taken to meet the requirements of the body, overtaxes the digestive organs and places the nut under a reproach that in. at least in part, undeserved.
There is a widespread belief that salt aids in the digestibility of nuts, and experience seems to bear out this opinion.—c. F. Lang-Worthy.
Source: Farmers' Bulletin, Issues 101-125 ©1899

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