In second grade, I was an Elite Member of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Club. It was the thing to do as an elementary school child. My Membership was revered; it gave me all kinds of status. Well, at least it did in my household, among the Club’s one other member, my brother.
Becoming a member of the PB&J Club was easy. All you had to do was commit to eating a PB&J for breakfast every day of the school week (for the entire school year/until you got bored or malnourished). When asked if I’d like to join the Club, I thought quickly to myself, “what have I really got to lose?” and signed my life away. Plus, my brother was the Founding Member, so declining the invitation would have been pretty dangerous. He was Older than me.
I never regretted my membership in the Club. It was a magical experience. Every morning, I came downstairs and opened the fridge to find a sandwich with more PB than J just the way I liked it, all wrapped up and marked with my name, sitting right next to my brother’s sandwich (more J than PB, just the way he liked it). I guess the Sandwich Fairy swooped down to stock our fridge every night. Or maybe it was my mom.
I could go into how enjoyable the act of eating the Sandwich was, but all that would be (slightly) beside the point. The point is this: thanks to my Elite Status in the PB&J Club of my youth, I became and still am an absolute fan of peanut butter.
Which brings me to almond butter, and the intense skepticism I had for it over the years. Ok, so maybe the alarmingly fast rate at which I learned to polish off a jar of peanut butter needed to be interrupted, but…almond butter? Almonds were for eating whole, roasted and salted, or as part of a trail mix. The thought of trying a new nut butter was appalling, let alone imagining what it might to do the Perfect PB&J.
But, there are very few things I won’t try. So one day maybe five years ago, I came across a stray jar of almond butter in my fridge and took a spoonful. And hated it.
Several years and several spoonfuls later, I still wasn’t a fan. But eventually I figured out what was stopping me from becoming accustomed to the taste. I was expecting it to be peanut butter, but with almonds instead of peanuts. It’s not. (Duh.) It’s its own entity. It has its own shelf at the grocery store; it’s made from a seed rather than a legume. After convincing myself no other product could ever replace peanut butter (as hard as they tried), I started to realize almond butter wasn’t so bad after all.
These days almond products are all the rage. From almond milk to almond yogurt and mainstream brands of almond butter, the humble almond is really enjoying its stint in the spotlight. All this hullabaloo caused me to remember almond butter and its sporadic appeareances in my life and question whether I should be pursing it with more fervor. The almond is a pretty awesome, nutrition-packed nugget, after all.
I decided I’d try to make my own almond butter to sort this love/hate relationship out once and for all. I’ve never made nut butter before, so my learning curve was steep. Follow me from nut to butter:
1.) Decide whether or not you’ll soak your raw almonds. Almonds naturally contain enzyme inhibitors, which protect the plant until it’s fully grown. These enzymes are really hard on the human digestive system, but fully submerging the almonds in water for 6-8 hours releases the enzymes and makes the nuts much more human friendly.
Soaking, Hour 1:
Soaking, Hour 8:
If you decide to soak the nuts, drain them after 6-8 hours and immediately dehydrate, freeze, or butter them up — otherwise they’ll start to sprout and taste rancid.
2.) Dump the soaked (or raw) almonds in a food processor, and process until nuts come together to form a butter, about 8-12 minutes. If a butter doesn’t seem to form, add a bit of oil to urge the process along. You can also add salt, honey or cinnamon to jazz your butter up.
Pretty simple, right? The finished product should look something like this:
I was excited I’d made a product for half the amount of money I’d spend to buy it in the store, and for very little effort. I made another snack from my childhood to celebrate my efforts:
The texture of almond butter is uniquely satisfying and its flavors are sophisticated. If ever again I have a pantry stocked with almonds, I will surely consider butter-making in my near future. But, let’s just say that almond butter will never, ever replace peanut butter in my pantry, and it certainly won’t find its way onto a Perfect PB&J.
Once a member of the PB&J Club, always a member, I guess.
…What’s your nut butter of choice?…