Food Face-Off: Peanut Butter

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Last week we tackled the subject of alterna-milks. This week we talk about its BFF: peanut butter. While we used to just grab our go-to jar of Skippy, today's markets are full of options, including some that you can make yourself using nothing but an old-fashioned machine and some nuts. So how do these compare with our ready-made standby? To find out, we bought a jar of Private Selection's Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter and sampled it against the kind we ground ourselves from HEB.

Private Selection's Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter

The great thing about this product is that it already comes in a jar. You can grab it, throw it in your cart and continue on your shopping quest. The label claims that this PB is organic and all-natural (as opposed to what?), and it has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, which we've heard is good, but cannot remember why. Two tablespoons of the stuff will set you back a whopping 200 calories and 16 grams of fat. It will also provide two grams of fiber and eight grams of protein. So enjoy it because legumes are important, but try to eat it in moderation. Now the important part, the ingredient list: organic peanuts, organic chopped peanuts, organic palm oil, organic cane sugar and sea salt. It's great that the ingredients are organic and not genetically engineered or modified, but the addition of extra oil and sugar seems like a big no-no to anyone trying to be health-conscious.

Opening the jar, the aroma of fresh peanuts is heavenly. We have to refrain from sticking our tongue directly in it. Instead we insert a spoon and begin licking the fatty, creamy globs of processed peanuts. The consistency is very smooth, with a good amount of chopped peanuts to add some crunch. The label claims this PB is "no stir," and it's right. We did not find a big glob of oil on top that needed to be reincorporated. We spooned a heap on some soft white bread and it was spreadable enough to not tear a whole through our sandwich. We topped the PB with some banana and honey and had a sandwich that would have made Elvis proud.

HEB Freshly Ground Peanut Butter

While grabbing a jar of PB and moving on is certainly nice from time to time, it is actually very satisfying to be able to push a button and watch freshly roasted peanuts emerge as thick ribbons into your bulk bin container. The whole process takes less than a minute. Plus the smell of those freshly pulverized peanuts is intoxicating. We also like that you can make as much or as little as you want, allowing you to have just enough to eat one week and get fresh stuff next week. If you're wondering how long the PB will remain edible, we found that it lasts indefinitely in the fridge and for several weeks on the counter. Basically, the rule is this: If it smells rancid, don't eat it. The nutritional facts are about the same with this product: two tablespoons of PB provides 200 calories, 15 grams of fat, two grams of fiber and eight grams of protein. The ingredient list, however, is a bit less involved: roasted peanuts.

We were barely able to make it home before trying this fresh peanut-y yumminess. We held it to our nose and inhaled. So good! Though the other stuff smelled nutty and tasty, this one had so much more of an intensely peanut smell. Same with the taste. It was like peanut butter times ten. And though packaged peanut butters can end up feeling a little heavy in your belly, this one felt light and fresh, though still satisfying. It did require some stirring, especially after a few days as the natural oils settled on top. The consistency was very different from the jarred variety. Instead of smooth PB with chunks mixed in, this stuff was all chunk, which did make spreading it on soft bred a bit challenging, though highly rewarding.

The results? We are big fans of processing our food as little as possible, so we side with the freshly ground PB. But if you're happy with the classic and don't mind adding a little extra oil and sugar to improve spreadability, then go with the original.

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