Peanut butter is a popular tasty spread that has been a common staple food for many people.
You would agree with us that peanut butter has remained one of the most loved breakfast foods thanks to its rich flavor and fantastic texture.
Peanut butter can be viewed as a relatively unprocessed food as its production process can entirely depend on one ingredient: peanuts.
But how is peanut butter made ? We’ve known this tasty spread for so long, but how many folks really know how it’s made ? Let’s find out.
How is peanut butter made?
Peanut butter is a paste made of peanuts.
In peanut butter processing, shelled peanuts are roasted to warm the oils in the nuts, making them easier to process.
Roasted peanuts are blended at high speed until they form a smooth, spreadable paste. Peanut butter can be simply made with these two steps!
The magic in the aroma, taste and appearance on the end product depends on the add-ons and the flavoring agents such as salt, sweeteners and vegetable oils.
How peanut butter is made – short guide
For your peanut butter loving hearts, we’re going to explain how peanut butter is made. We’ll try and not get very technical, but knwo that there’s a lot that goes into making peanut butter.
For a spread that’s so simple and delicious, there’s a lot of steps involved.
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First the peanuts are harvested
Peanuts are harvested from the fields mainly in September. Peanuts are removed from their vines using mechanical pickers and are transported to warehouses for cleaning and storage purposes.
The peanuts are prepared for subsequent steps by washing to remove dust, attached vines, empty shells and stems. The cleaned peanuts proceed to the shelling process.
Shelling and grading peanuts
Shelling is the removal of the outer covering of nuts and any remaining debris.
This is done by first cracking the peanuts and then using mechanical shakers, vibrators and blowers to remove the shell and other unwanted materials.
Grading is done to remove the peanuts with defects. Only peanuts with the required size and structure are packaged for further processing.
Peanuts are then roasted for flavor
Also known as the browning process, roasting is heating the dried, shelled and graded peanuts to warm monosaturated oils present in them.
This greatly enhances the aroma of the final butter and also eases the subsequent steps.
Roasting is done by passing the peanuts in a rocking motion, through a hot air roaster. The color of the peanuts changes to light brown when completely roasted.
The peanuts need to be chilled afterwards
This is an abrupt cooling of the roasted peanuts to stop the cooking process. This helps retain the moisture and the oils in the peanuts. Chilling is done by passing the peanuts in long cylindrical metal troughs with air suction fans.
Blanching the peanuts
While this is not a must-do step for homemade peanut butter, it is an essential step in industrial peanut processing. Here, any remaining outer skin is removed. The heart (known to cause a bitter taste to the final product) is removed and the kernels split into two halves for easier grinding.
The peanuts are ground into a paste
This is the most significant step that turns the peanuts into a spreadable paste. Other agents other than peanuts are added in this step.
The primary add-ons to peanuts are salt (usually 2% of the total weight of the peanuts), corn syrup (a sweetener) and hydrogenated vegetable oil to stabilize the end product. The problem with home-made peanut butter is that the peanut oil and the solids may separate after a while.
Grinding proceeds in two main steps.
At first medium speed grinding is done to reduce the size of peanuts into a medium grind. Sometimes these larger bits are added to a smooth paste, to get crunchy peanut butter.
Then, product is passed through high-speed grinders where a combination of grinding and shearing forces produce a smooth paste.
The add-ons are added to the peanuts during the high-speed grinding. To prevent oxidation and possible bacterial deterioration during storage, grinding is done under constant pressure.
Cooling the peanuts, again
By the time the paste leaves the grinding compartment, its temperature is raised to about 60 degrees Celsius. Cooling is done to lower the temperature to about 38 degrees Celsius before the peanut butter is packaged.
Finally, the peanut butter is packaged
This is the final step in peanut butter processing. Packaging into jars is done under pressure and vacuuming done before sealing.
These precautionary measures are done to reduce oxygen in the packaging and hence increase the shelf life of the packaged peanut butter.
It is the responsibility of each manufacturer to check the quality of the primary raw material (peanut), the add-ons, and the products in each step, the final product and the packaging materials.
Health benefits of peanut butter
Other than peanut butter being a tasty, readily available and cheap food, there are research-backed reasons why it has become one of the most famous fast-food fillings.
Please note that consuming any high-fat foods in large amounts will not give you health benefits. Regardless of the health benefits found by researchers, if you consume too much peanut butter you will not be happy with the results.
Anyone interested in understanding how peanut butter is made should also know that consuming peanut butter in moderation:
• Improves heart health – Peanut butter has almost the same ratio of unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids to olive oil.
This factor plays a very vital role in improving heart health. Peanut butter also contains other components such as vitamin E and magnesium, also crucial in supporting heart health.
• Boosts the immune function – High levels of zinc and vitamin B6 in peanut butter can support your body’s immune system. Antioxidants increased in peanut butter by the roasting of the peanuts are also good immune boosters.
• Improves blood flow – Some studies have also shown that peanut butter contains p-coumaric acid, a polyphenol antioxidant that shields cholesterol from oxidation hence protecting the body from atherosclerosis. This helps keep blood flow in the arteries very smooth.
Please keep in mind that there is only a small amount of p-coumaric acid in peanut butter. Consuming peanut butter simply for this benefit will backfire (you would need a lot), and instead increase cholesterol and raise your blood pressure.
• Increases the rate of fat breakdown- A study conducted at the University of South Florida showed that resveratrol – an antioxidant in peanut butter, also found in grapes – fastens the rate of fat breakdown in the body.
Consuming peanut butter can, therefore prevent conditions such as obesity and help reduce body weight if you are obese.
Again, this is only with peanut butter that is consumed in small amounts, and has no added sweeteners or oils.
• Manages blood sugar levels– Peanut butter has a high amount of fats and proteins and relatively low carbohydrates.
In this regard, peanut butter has no severe effect on altering the blood sugar level. Plain peanut butter with no added sugars can therefore be a good diet for people with diabetes.
Please be sure to check the packaging for any added sugar. If you see none, look for added sweeteners. If you see none, check the carbohydrate levels on the nutritional table.
A high carb peanut butter that claims has no sugars will have added sweeteners, which do impact blood sugar levels.
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The bottom line
Making peanut butter does not involve very complex processes common in other semi-processed foods.
Considering the above very crucial health benefits, it is clear that peanut butter should always grace your dining table. The good thing is that you don’t have to go for the commercially produced peanut butter.
You can make you own peanut butter at home by roasting and blending your dry peanuts. For a homemade plain peanut butter, you can be assured that it will not take you more than 20 minutes!