According to every health food article published in the last 2 years, everything you can’t pronounce in processed food labels either makes you fat or gives you cancer. Or both.
It’s no wonder why so many people, including myself, are so skeptical of every food they purchase. It’s hard to keep straight what kinds of fat are good today, or whether chocolate is a miracle drug or death sentence. In light of all of this doubt, my food philosophy has gradually been shifting to “back to the basics.”
My friend Allison, who was in culinary school at the time, told me several years ago that I don’t want to know what’s really in peanut butter. The additives that relieved us of menial tasks like *gasp* stirring actually take a relatively healthy protein source and put it in the fatty-fat-fatty club. I looked at the label and said “hydrogenated what?” and then put it back and tried not to think about it.
Years later, the “natural” movement has led to an emergence of natural peanut butter in mainstream brands like JIF and Smuckers. I love peanut butter, and haven’t been able to really enjoy it for years now (thanks, Allision), so I decided it was time to try the natural stuff.
Here’s the lowdown on natural peanut butter:
- It contains two things: peanuts and salt. That’s it.
- The oil separates and forms a welcoming party at the top each time you screw off the lid. You need to stir it.
- Because it’s a little runnier than regular PB, it needs to be refrigerated for that thick consistency we all love
My Natural PB Experience
(Sounds dramatic, right?)
While at Target (they’ve recently embraced the natural/organic crowd), I found a selection of natural PB’s. A quick search on my iPhone showed that the Smucker’s variety tested well for the folks at Real Simple. So, I grabbed that one. Here’s the product:
Remember when I said it’s supposed to be refrigerated? Well, I tried it right off the bat, and the texture definitely threw me off a bit. It was pretty runny and a tad oily-tasting, perhaps because I didn’t stir it enough. Even though it was the smooth kind, there were still tiny chunks. I knew there were no sweeteners, but the reduced sweetness took me by surprise—I’m thinking the corn syrup in normal peanut butter has me fooled into expecting unnatural amounts of sweetness.
Anyway, I let it sit in the fridge overnight and tried it again. MUCH better this time, I think the fridge was needed to get that consistency right and it didn’t taste oily this time. It was more like normal peanut butter, just with little chunks and not as sweet. Here’s what it looked like (notice you can see the knife grooves from a sandwich I made, so it clearly holds its shape):
Anyway, overall I was pleased with it and I think after I get used to it, there will be no going back. It’s worth being able to enjoy my peanut butter without hearing the haunting echo of Allison’s voice.
I think my next jar will be the variety of Smucker’s with honey in it, just because I still like my PB a little on the sweet side. So there you have it—the green light to go try peanut butter, knowing the rules (refrigerate, stir, enjoy) to making it a tasty, healthy snack. Or meal, if that’s how you roll.