COOKING WITH CHRISTIE: Nut Butters!

By Christie Popp

 

Over the last year, I have been experimenting more in the kitchen, and making foods that I had never tried before. I spent the summer making jams and preserves. I’ve also been trying my hand at fermentation (more on that in a future column!). And, recently, I’ve experimented with homemade nut butters. 

 

A big reason for our change is that seven months ago, my family decided to go “zero waste,” which means in part that we are trying to avoid putting anything into the waste stream (i.e. landfill). This means we buy our food in bulk or at the farmer’s market, so many foods we would have bought are now off limits. 

 

We usually get our peanut butter and almond butter in bulk. But earlier this fall, our son’s vegetarian preschool went nut free. Eek! My go-to, I-have-no-time-to-think-about-what-to-pack lunch was a peanut butter and jelly. The kids get a snack of fruit and cheese mid-morning, so I didn’t want to just throw in a cheese sandwich for lunch. 

 

I knew from past conversations with other moms that sunflower seed butter (sun-nut butter) is usually fine for children who are allergic to nuts (and confirmed this with the school). I read some recipes and experimented. I found that that making homemade nut butters is easy, and better than buying because you can make as little or as much as you want, and you can vary the flavors.  

 

Speaking of nut butters, another food we cannot find in bulk is nutella. When I told my son that I would no longer buy nutella, I thought he would cry.  I was overjoyed when I found a recipe for homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread. It was an easy recipe that my kids helped with.  

 

I hope you enjoy these two recipes and that they serve as a platform for your flavor experiments!


Honey-Cinnamon Sun-nut Butter

This is adapted from general nut butter directions by Food in Jars’ author Marissa McClellan. 

The Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2-3 Tbs of honey (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon (Or more to taste)
  • 4+ tablespoons neutral oil (I used grapeseed).

The Process

Roast the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet at 325 degrees until lightly toasted. This takes around 8-10 minutes. Let cool. 

Once cool, pulse with the salt in a food processor until you have a fine meal. At this point, add in the honey and cinnamon and pulse a few more times to combine. Slowly add in the oil, a tablespoon at a time, and process until you have a consistency you like. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the processor periodically. I found with sunflower seeds, you need a little more oil than with other nuts, but use as much as you need to get your preferred consistency. 

You should probably keep this in the refrigerator, even though I don’t. The general recommendation is to eat within a week, but it seems to keep well in the cabinet for a couple of weeks. Just smell for rancidity. 


Variations:

The variations are endless. Use different nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts! Or a combination). Use different oils (neutral oils like canola work, as well as flavored oils like walnut or almond oils). Use different sweeteners (maple syrup, different flavored honeys, brown sugar) or none at all. Use different spices—savory or sweet. 


 

Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Rubbing off the skins

Rubbing off the skins

I found this recipe on the blog, Reading My Tea Leaves. I realize this is blasphemy, but I actually like this better than the original nutella. It has salt to balance the sweetness and a more pronounced nut taste. It also doesn’t have the off-taste that processed food products can sometimes have. 

 

The Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Raw Hazelnuts
  • 12 oz milk chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract (see note below)
  • 1 Tsp salt

The Process

  • Roast the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until they are golden. Once slightly cooled, rub the nuts vigorously with a kitchen towel to remove the skins (some skin will remain). Allow the nuts to cool completely. 
  • Meanwhile, melt the chocolate. I usually do this in a bowl over a pot with an inch or two of simmering water (a double boiler). Stir until smooth and then allow to cool. 
  • Process the hazelnuts in the food processor until they are ground into a fine meal. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate. Blend until the mixture is at your desired consistency. Add the melted chocolate and blend well. Keep in a jar!
     

Notes:

If your kitchen is cool (such as this time of year), the nut butter can harden a bit in the jar. I’ve seen recipes that use coconut oil or palm oil to help make a creamier product. I usually put nutella on warm bread anyway. When I made this over the summer, my kitchen was warm enough that the spread stayed soft. 

For one batch, I ran out of vanilla extract and used some artificial vanilla that was in my cabinet. I don’t recommend this. While the spread is still good, the artificial vanilla gave it a cloying sweetness that tasted off to me. Use the real vanilla!