living underground in the real world

peanut butter CALAMITY (and PB tasting notes)

A few weeks ago in Hawaii, when Jacob and I were on our bi-daily (is there a word for every other day?) hike, we spent the entire 20 minutes climbing up Sleeping Giant mountain talking about how weird it is that Europeans can’t understand the American love of peanut butter, particularly pb& j. So weird! It’s one of the few things that makes me proud to be an Amurrikan—at least I know there is quality pb all around me.

Jacob spends most of his nights dipping chunks of chocolate (it’s useful for him to have a girlfriend who buys it by the case) into a private jar of peanut butter so unsanitary I wouldn’t use it for PB cups if it were the last jar on the planet. He prefers this deconstructed peanut butter cup to those that I so laboriously craft, I do believe this, even though he weakly protests that he just doesn’t want to use up mine. A huge spoon of PB, a giant bite of chocolate: it makes me laugh every time.

So. The peanut butter debacle is as follows: My ***beautiful*** organic peanut butter is made by Arrowhead Mills. I taste tested every PB on the market and it (used to) blow every other brand out of the water. Unfortunately now they have changed their formula to use a blend of peanuts, instead of the 100% Valencia peanuts they used to use, and to also mix in the papery skins (which means unpretty brown bits in the jar). All of this adds up to a flavor I do not enjoy. Arguably even worse is that their newly shitty flavor comes in a jar with a metal BLUE CAP. A blue cap? What are you doing to me, Arrowhead Mills? I’ve talked about my yellow-cap PB jar collection again and again, have you not been following my blog??

(And are you ever going to update your website to reflect the change, or are you too ashamed?)

So obviously, it’s a nightmare. I called them up today to talk it over, and they told me all casual and shit that yeah, it’s now a peanut blend and sorry about the caps but no, there’s no way to get any of the old blend with the old caps. When asked why they made such an obviously terrible decision, the rep merely said it was a change the company decided on. And you know, Arrowhead Mills is owned by Hain, which is a part of the whole Celestial group, and I doubt that they are able to autonomously operate with principles other than cheapness at their core, sigh.

So the search begins for a new awesome peanut butter.

Get your water glasses ready, people in my life, because whenever I see you I’ll be offering you peanut butter.

What I know: I have to use a 100% Valencia pb (though my quickie research today seems to suggest that Spanish peanuts are also pretty good—it seems to me that the peanut to avoid is the Virginia peanut.), it has to be organic, and it can’t have the stupid bitterass skins mixed in. Preferably the peanuts should be grown in New Paltz, New York (veganically, of course) and processed in a worker-owned, union-organized, geothermal, LEED-gold standard-certified building, delivered via biodiesel truck by sweet vegans happy with their lives and jobs.

Apart from that, I’m not picky.

Know any great peanut butters? Let me know!

I’ll post the results of my tastings here, so for right now here are some initial thoughts.

Veronica and I pitted the old vs. new AM PB on Saturday, and the results were instant and unanimous:

Old Arrowhead Mills: BEAUTIFUL: creamy to the nth power, roasty-toasty, smooth mouthfeel, clean lovely tan color…oh world, why must you kill everything wonderful?

New Arrowhead Mills: FUCKING SUX: darker, somehow less creamy, bitter undertones, blech. A whole case useless for precious pb cups.

Sigh.

Here is the initial list of brands I’m eying/ruling out:

(Obviously, shitty processed supermarket brands are not listed here)

I got a flier from a PB made in Ithaca at last year’s Fancy Food Show, but now I can’t find it. If you know of it, let me know!

Peanut Butter and Co: not organic, but I’ve had it before and like it.

Once I accidentally bought a 9 lb bucket of Once Again pb and words can’t quite express how vile Veronica and I found it. It was dark and filled with peanut skins and non-Valencia flavors. We used it to make peanut noodles (lots. of. peanut. noodles.) and celebrated the day it was used up.

Marantha: I guess I’ll give it a whirl.

This kind looks good, but what kind of peanuts do you use, and do you use the skins? And why don’t you make an organic one?

Laura Scudder’s? Is this, like, some sort of supermarket brand? Can’t figure out if they use Valencias or not, I will investigate more…

Adams: I know nothing about it. Not Valencia peanuts, I’m sure.

Trader Joe’s??? Random internetting seems to say it’s good, but I can’t quite see how to buy it without going to a TJ, and I need to buy mine in great vats.

Sunland: 100% Valencia, organic! I just ordered 2 jars! Cross your fingers! Have you had it?

This brand, Sweet Ella’s, uses Spanish peanuts and de-skins (God! Why do people make skin-ful pb? Arrrrggghhhh) like any self-respecting pb…hmm, I might order a jar or two.

What’s up with this peanut butter made with palm fruit oil? Hmm. This company, Justin’s, makes those annoying little pb packets you see in health food stores. Ugh.

Not organic, and they admit they use the dreaded Virginia peanuts, but I’ve always been curious about Cream-Nut. Maybe I’ll buy a jar just for kicks. (This is how I get my kicks, yes.)

Santa Cruz organic—they say they use Spanish peanuts too. Hmm.

I don’t like these jars, or the labels, or that they don’t say how great their peanuts are, or anything. But I guess I should try all the pbs I can.

OMG DUDES!!!!!!! I just had an idea.

What if I made my own PB?

[thinking

thinking

thinking]

Oh god, that is going to be yet another pain in my ass.

Yet another thing in my life that seems so easy (akin to making tempeh, miso, shoyu, seitan, etc etc) yet ends up adding hours to my already cram-jammed days. But still! Homemade pb! Maybe I should be looking for peanuts…and a cute mill thingie! Vintage!!

OK.

I’m going to leave this where it is for tonight and go get ready to survive the Valentine’s onslaught and will return post-V-day with more thoughts and a dry mouth.

From eating peanut butter, you know.

(Why do I make jokes about being high? Want to know something? I’ve only smoked pot once, and it didn’t even work. But because I have no qualms about pot and rather wish I could figure it out because it seems so fun, I make a lot of weed jokes to myself.)

(I also say “that’s what she said” about 1,000 times a day to myself. I’ve found that if you are a “she,” and your mind is prone to wandering, TWSS easily becomes a weird post-thought to everything I say: “Veronica, could you open the oven door for me?” [that’s what she said.] If anyone has a remedy for this disease [pot?], please let me know.)

Final thought: here’s what Chowhounders have to say about PB. I disagree with most of it, but might be worth a read if you’re super into the topic. And what self-respecting vegan isn’t?

26 Responses to “peanut butter CALAMITY (and PB tasting notes)”

  1. veronica

    Oh god, I still have the taste of that shitty pb in my mouth! (Kidding, obviously!)

    I like Maranatha the best out of the peanut butters I’ve tried.
    I know Rachel likes some brand of PB with a raccoon on the label, but I think it’s kinda gross (and it has palm oil and sugar in it). Oh, scratch that. It doesn’t say it’s made w/ 100% valencia nuts.

    I don’t really have anything else to add to your thorough list, except to comment on how much those Justin’s squeezable packs make me queasy. Nut butter should not come packaged like that! Actually, nothing should.

    Oh, wait! Here’s the brand my dad used to buy at auction:
    http://www.kremaproducts.com/Crazy-Richards-Peanut-Butter/products/1/

    It’s not organic, though. Also, under the FAQs they spell gluten wrong, that’s a little disconcerting.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      But Veronique, they are “Totally Nuts”! They can’t be bothered with little things like spelling!

      Literally only our family would
      1) buy a huge lot of pb at an auction
      2) buy a huge lot of pb called “Crazy Richard’s” at an auction.

      Oh man, I love it.

      Reply
  2. craftbition

    What a stunner! Perhaps Arrowhead will see sales drop and will then drop their new PB. Money talks.

    Hmmm. My absolute fave PB, ever, was Teddie’s Old Fashioned, crunchy. Just peanuts and salt, no additives! I became addicted to that stuff in college. I sadly must avoid eating peanuts now (yes, I was devastated). I’m in the South now where the brand does not exist- it’s a New England/MA brand- but at least I don’t have to worry about torturing myself by passing the nut butter aisle….

    I didn’t recall seeing an organic version before, but a quick check shows they now have an organic PB. it is a local, New-England company. If nothing else…. find a jar, give it a try? Best of luck with the search!

    here’s the company site-

    http://www.teddie.com/peanutbutter.html

    Reply
  3. eissej

    “Preferably the peanuts should be grown in New Paltz, New York (veganically, of course) and processed in a worker-owned, union-organized, geothermal, LEED-gold standard-certified building, delivered via biodiesel truck by sweet vegans happy with their lives and jobs.”

    Thank you for you amazingness.

    Reply
  4. Kaylen

    I like Nuts To You organic valencia peanut butter, but I don’t know if it has skins and I don’t know if it’s available in the US. Good luck!

    Reply
  5. ruby

    I haven’t had it in years, but I second Teddie’s Old Fashioned. I used to buy it in plastic tubs with a handle at Harvest Co-op in Central Square and we used it all the time at Food Not Bombs.

    Also, I totally was dipping a Green & Black ginger-flavored chocolate bar (don’t kill me, it’s what my co-op had at the counter, I’m ordering bluestockings for my roomie for valentine’s right now) into a jar of TJ’s organic peanut butter when I sat down to read your site. I put peanut butter in just about everything I cook for myself, and yet, I haven’t bothered to be be very picky about brands besides avoiding Peter Pan and whatever other gross chemically grocery store brands.

    I was gonna suggest you make your own PB on fb, since it doesn’t seem hard, then I remembered you feet hurt and you never sleep. I kept my fingers still.

    Anyway, let us know what you choose and if they have a good crunchy I too will order it by the case.

    Reply
  6. moomie!

    that justin’s brand (with the wee packets) isn’t very good. koeze’s cream nut pb is pretty good. i once told sheela (al’s gf) about koeze and she didn’t like it cos there was a layer of oil on top of it. she dumped the oil and said the pb was too dry. oy. i’m gonna try that sweet ella’s .

    Reply
  7. Sara

    Well, I live in Ithaca and have not seen this mythical PB at Greenstar or the farmer’s market (which is going on Jan and Feb this winter), but will keep an eye out for it. They have Once Again, Maranatha, etc.

    Emmy’s Organics, which is from Ithaca, has a raw cashew butter–but I don’t think they will have any PB products since PB must be roasted.

    Reply
  8. Kris

    Well, now I just feel plain bad. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I gently poked at you a long while back about using Arrowhead Mills PB. I liked the flavor as well, but not their place in the Hain Celestial family. Anyway, I never shared with you my choice in peanut butter…Sunland!

    I’ve been using it for a couple of years and think you’ll really like it. In fact, I found out that they actually produce the Arrowhead Mills PB at their facility (at least they used to, before the AM change…don’t know about now).

    I order it 3 cases at a time straight from the company. They don’t bulk discount for me, but probably will for you if you convince them you are a reseller. And they have orange lids.

    But, beware, all is not golden in Sunland. The 80’s graphics are a little tough to fight through and the small, hexagon jars will whip your ass when you’re trying to get out the last spoonful or two of PB.

    I have one more interesting PB for you: http://www.eastwindnutbutters.com/products.shtml#organicpeanutbutter
    The drawback here is that they leave the skin on. But, be sure to read about the community that makes this stuff. Wow!

    Reply
  9. Debi Morris

    Hi – I came across your site researching my own blog post about the Organic Valencia Peanut Butter CALAMITY. I corresponded with Hain via email, and was told that due to a shortage of organic Valencia peanuts, they were “forced” to produce a blend.

    I have been trying to find any references to a shortage of them, but so far have found only one site that references the possibility of a shortage due to demand (and that was from 2005).

    Oh, and the great peanut shortage of 1913, of course.

    Like you, I am devastated. It was simply the best, and worth every extra penny I paid for it. Now it’s just expensive, over-priced crap.

    I think Koeze’s is good (it’s what I bought when I saw “Valencia Blend” on the AM jar) but it is *not*, I repeat *not*, anything like AM Valencia PB.

    Of course, I just put my PB on sandwiches, celery, apples and in sauces ;)

    Reply
  10. zoe p.

    I wasn’t going to post about my love for the adorable, delicious Teddie’s, avail at my local supermarket. But since ruby and craftbition brought it up, I’ll add a third vote for Teddie’s. US nuts, Massachusetts distributed.

    Oh, and a song. “Peanuuuuuut, peanut butter. Jelly. Jelly. First you take the peanuts, you mash ’em. You mash ’em. You mash ’em. Mash ’em. Mash ’em. Peanuuuuuut, peanut butter.”

    Reply
  11. Randal Putnam

    I strongly second the recommendation of Emmy’s Organics as a possible supplier. I am friends with Samantha, co-owner. Her and her partner Ian are turning out wonderful raw vegan treats and growing very steadily. They care deeply. I think you’d really get along with her (and I just haven’t met Ian, but I trust he is wonderful as well). Even if they doesn’t make peanut butter now, I’ll bet they’d consider it. Tell Samantha I sent you.

    If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve enjoyed Saratoga Peanut Butter, but I haven’t tested it head to head with any other. They have an organic version, but you’ll ned to call the company and quiz them about ingredients.

    http://www.yopeanut.com/our-products/index.asp

    Reply
  12. brittany

    ok, so, i REALLY don’t wanna do this, BUT if you start making your own PB, i will never talk to you again. not because i don’t think it would be amazing, bc we all know it would be, but in 2010 we are taking AWAY from our overly crazy and ridiculous lives, not adding. and god damn it, imma make you stick to your resolutions if it means we aren’t friends anymore!!! ;)

    also, my mom will be really excited about this. she doesn’t like the pb cups that much (which is weird bc they’re one of my faves) bc she says the sweetness ratio between the choc and pb doesn’t match. so, idk. maybe she’ll like the new pb, whatever it ends up being. (and i won’t suggest the weirdo pb supermarket brands that we both guiltily adore, but reserve only for special occasions)

    finally, on the topic of blue tops – in my imaginary parallel universe life (am i the only one who has one of these? in it, i’m a librarian to small children in a place that’s always warm and pete and i have a darling house with a washer/dryer, wrap-around porch with ceiling fans and a daughter who reads chapter books compulsively and i am no longer allergic to cats), i’m also quite adept at interior design and in my real-life research of the things that make me happiest in my imaginary parallel life was that you should never decorate a kitchen or dining room in BLUE because there are very few naturally occurring foods that are blue, causing people to have less of an appetite when surrounded by the color. it’s not conducive to foody space. so, boo to blue tops!!!

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Ah! Fascinating about blue–I feel the same deep in my heart and now know why. Yeah, I probably won’t make my own pb. Does you mom think they pb cups aren’t sweet enough? They aren’t for most people. I want them to be just on the edge of savory, not super sweet like most pb cups are. (The irony is that my “super super super unsweet” pb filling formula is still roughly half sugar, half pb!!!).

      Reply
      • Brittany Turner

        yeah, i guess she thinks the pb isn’t sweet enough? for me, any time i eat a reese’s, it’s so sweet it burns the back of my throat, so… idk.

  13. Christy

    A few words in favor of making your own: I don’t think that it’s all that difficult. I mean, you’ll probably roast the nuts yourself, and then have to clean the machine once in a while which would be the most labor intensive part of the process. At one tiny place I buy from they just use a Champion Juicer. At another they an old timey looking (but not really) grinder. Then you could also make almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin seed butter (yummy, beautifully green), etc. Another good thing — the pb doesn’t separate so it has an amazingly consistent texture (which becomes a quality that you get attached to). And — it doesn’t taste like jar!

    If it seems anxiety producing, don’t. But I don’t think it is like taking on another seitan/tempeh/miso/shoyu project (seitan I know is a pain in the ass. Tempeh I’m researching because you say it’s worth the trouble). I think it’s DIY that’s pretty doable.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      You are severely tempting me, missy!!!

      All the comments on this post I am so very grateful for (and if I’d eaten anything but chocolate today I could rearrange the words in that sentence to make a little more sense). Taste test results to come!!

      Reply
  14. wintergreens

    ALSO, if you made it yourself you could justify getting a Norwalk Juicer, and then I’d come a’knockin to borrow your juicer extraordinaire. (I’ve been trying to find a way to justify spending thousands on a juicer for a decade, and haven’t succeeded. But oh, how I love that creamy juice. Any PROB creamy pb!)

    Reply
    • ruby

      My old roommate, who was a hoarder – especially of kitchen stuff, had one. Shiny metal contraption she had never used. I begged to keep it since I’m super into peanuts and she isn’t, but alas, it’s gone and I didn’t even take a picture.

      Reply
  15. tom lakos

    i was looking for info on a competitor, Arrowhead Mills, and ran across your blog. Couldn’t help reading your article and subsequent comments. Koeze Co. has manufactured natural peanut butter using Virginia peanuts since 1925 under the Cream-Nut label. Recently, we have begun to produce an organic, using Spanish peanuts produced under the Sweet Ella’s label. Both are minimally processed, using only 2 ingredients-pnts & sea salt, artisanally produced, slow and exact. This produces authentic butter w/ no bitter skin taste, where oil separation proves that the product comes from the cream of the nut. Simple, prepared properly, textured grind-not whipped – giving the consumer a true peanut taste, nothing else!
    But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Butter as it was meant to taste.

    Reply

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