Peanut butter is an edible paste prepared using the dry roasted peanuts. It is generally served as a spread and its taste is enriched by the addition of different flavor enhancers, sweeteners, and dried fruits. This butter paste is a popular food staple in American, European, and some East Asian kitchens. The distinction between peanut butter and paste is very feeble. The peanut paste is often used as a taste enhancer in many curries prepared around Asia. China and America are the lead exporters of this product.
There are confusions regarding the exact date of the origin of peanut butter. It is one such edible product which was invented and re-invented in different parts of the world for different reasons. It is believed that the peanuts originated in the Southern American continent in 950 B.C. The Incans were the first people to make paste by grinding peanuts and it was hard to use this paste as a spread because it was less creamy and also, it had no other flavor enhancers.
The first recorded mention of this food paste as a commercial food product comes from “U.S. Patent 306,727” issued in 1884 to Montreal based Marcellous Gilbert Edson. Edson was a physician by profession and he created this food paste to treat people suffering from bad breath. According to the patent, the paste was produced by milling the roasted peanuts until it attained a “semi-fluid or fluid” state. He also confirmed that when the product became cold it attained the consistency of lard, ointment or butter.
The credit for inventing this food product goes to the famous Agricultural Scientist George Washington Carver, who invented 300 uses of the peanut. Carver abstained from patenting his invention because he believed that every ingredient and resulting food item was a gift from God. He is credited for making peanut butter an integral part of the American food culture.
The commercial possibility of this food product was exploited by various food entrepreneurs from time to time. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub patented the machine used for making the peanut butter. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg served this product to his patients during meal time. Joseph Lambert who worked as an apprentice at Kelloggs clinic started selling his own hand operated peanut grinding machine in 1896.
By 1914, this food product became a popular snack in America. Dr. Joseph. L. Rosenfield is credited for making smooth peanut butter and in 1932; he created his own brand of butter called Skippy. In Netherlands, this nut butter was popularized through cartoon characters and was commercialized in collectible glasses. It was sold under the name “Oz, the Wonderful Peanut Spread” and the last terms were replaced by the term peanut butter.
Many types of edible nut butters involving peanut are available in the market today. It is generally classified into three types-
- Regular– It contains sugar and partially hydrogenated oil and contains some permissible food preservatives to improve its shelf life.
- Natural – It is prepared using only grounded peanuts and contains no sugar or salt. It is generally chosen by the people due to its low oil or flavor content. When filled into jars, the butter releases natural oil, which needs to be removed using spoon.
- Organic – It is a one of the healthy types of peanut butters which is made purely using the dry roasted peanuts. It is free from any type of flavor enhancer, salt, sugar, etc. This nut butter is expensive than regular and natural types because it is prepared using the specially developed pesticide free peanuts. Usually, this type of peanut butter requires refrigeration once opened.
Regular, organic and natural peanut butters are available in chunky and smooth versions. The chunky peanut butter is also known as crunchy and it is mostly served as a topping for desserts and contains some fine chopped peanuts. The smooth variation does not contain any chopped peanut pieces and is known as creamy butter. People with special diet needs can choose from sodium-free and sugar-free types of nut butters involving peanut. Most of the commercial brands of butter contain hydrogenated oil to avoid the separation of oils. Ingredients like sugar and hydrogenated oil are avoided in organic and natural varieties. Instead, palm oil is used to prevent the separation of oil.
It is served on sandwiches, fruit slices, plain cookies, crackers, cakes, ice cream, celery stalks, salads, pasta or simple desserts and is popularly served in combination with jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is also added to the confectionary, cake, jelly, brownies, ice cream, cookies, and porridges.
Peanut Butter Spread
This is a popular food product involving peanut butter, dried fruits and other flavor enhancers. The consistency and taste of this product can be controlled by the addition of different flavor enhancers and other ingredients. Vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, apple, and dried fruits are some of the popular flavors of peanut butter spread available in the market today.
During World War II, this nut butter was called “Monkey Butter”. The Dutch called it pindakaas or peanut cheese because the word butter was prohibited in Netherlands when this product was widely commercialized in 1948.
This nut butter is enriched with resveratrol and monosaturated fats and is considered good source of vitamins E and B3, protein, folate, magnesium, arginine, dietary fiber. It is also valued for high values of antioxidant p-coumaric acid.
- This nut butter is not consumed or preferred by people suffering from peanut allergy. It is also notorious for triggering anaphylactic shock due to which it is banned in many schools around US.
- The peanuts are susceptible to a fungus mold called Aspergillus flavus which produces a carcinogen called aflatoxin. It is impossible to remove the effects of this mold completely from the peanuts. This is the reason why it is highly monitored by the food authorities in many countries to avoid the high levels of carcinogen.
- According to Robert Wissler from University of Chicago, the diets high in peanuts caused clogging of arteries in some species of monkeys who were served this nut butter for a long time period.
Americans celebrate January 24th as the National Peanut Butter Day.