Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scrumptious Nut Butter

This recipe will make a nut-lover out of anyone. Better yet, it's also very healthy! This is a delayed gratification recipe, but the results are outstanding and the nutritional value of this nut butter is higher than anything on the market.

The first way to make nuts completely nutritious (and delicious!) is to soak them overnight in water and a little sea salt. This neutralizes the phytic acid and breaks down enzyme inhibitors that are naturally present in all forms of seeds (including whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans/legumes). This is a very important first step, whether you are making a butter from the nuts, or just plan to enjoy them whole as a snack or a salad topping.

I used about 2 cups of shelled, skinless peanut halves, and 2 cups of pecan halves but you could use any type of nut (such as cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, or walnuts). [Keep in mind that this makes quite a lot of nut butter, so you may want to halve the recipe the first time you make it if you're not sure you will like the results. I think you will, though!]

First, place the nuts in a bowl and cover with water; add 1 tbsp. sea salt to each bowl (use one soaking bowl for each type of nut to keep them separate) and cover with plastic wrap. Leave the bowls in a warm place for about 12-24 hours.

Next, drain the nuts, spread them on a baking sheet (again keeping the different kinds on separate sheets), and slowly dry them out in a warm oven set no higher than 150 degrees. You can turn them occasionally, but otherwise you don't need to supervise them much. There is no possibility of burning so you can pretty much leave them on their own, just checking every few hours. You will need to bake them in this way for about 7-15 hours until they are completely dry and crisp. I left mine in the oven overnight which was very convenient. You really don't have to worry about them too much as the temperature is set so low; they just need a good amount of time to dry out completely. This picture is of the "crispy" pecans - the soaking and drying really brings out the buttery flavor.

The last step is creating the nut butter! Pour the nuts into a food processor with a pinch of salt and blend into a thick powder. Then add 1/3 cup (5 tbsp.) unrefined coconut oil and raw honey to taste (I used about 3-4 tbsp.). You may also add a little more sea salt to taste. This recipe, adapted slightly from Nourishing Traditions, says to store the nut butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but I found it got too hard that way. I suggest refrigerating it at first if it's too liquidy, but then letting it warm up before serving. I leave mine in the pantry in a glass Pyrex container and just mix it a little before serving as the oil separates somewhat. The final product will be fluffy and slightly granulated, and delicious enough for dessert! Try it spread on Carr's whole wheat crackers (which are slightly sweet), or as a gourmet sandwich on thin slices of toasted whole wheat sourdough with sliced apple and a little cinnamon.

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