I made walnut butter for the first time. It won’t be the last.
Growing up, the only nut butter I ever ate was peanut butter. In fact, I didn’t know there was such a thing as nut butter. Peanut butter was its own entity, a world unto itself. I didn’t know that it was something a person at home could make. Didn’t it just come in a jar?
(Did you have the natural peanut butter when you were a kid, the one that contained a pool of oil on the top, the one you had to stir yourself? I sort of hated that stuff then. Now, it’s the only one I want. Also, what was that abomination that had goopy peanut butter with grape jam mixed into the same jar? Was it actually called Goober? And did we actually eat that?)
My education about nut butters has become far more catholic since then. I’ve come to love almond butter, hazelnut butter, and even sunflower seed butter. (Okay, it’s not a nut. You understand.) Last year, I tasted Marilyn’s Nut Butters, made here in Seattle, and I was hooked. Spicy hot pecan butter with cayenne and chipotle, with just a bit of sweetness. Hazelnut walnut spice with cardamom. Pistachio with fennel. Before I tried her nut butters, it never occurred to me to mix spices into nut butters to create new flavor combinations. Or to use nut butters in savory dishes. You’ve come a long way from white bread sandwiches, baby.
However, until a couple of weeks ago, I had never made a nut butter from scratch.
Mollie Katzen made me do it.
You know Mollie Katzen, don’t you? Cookbook author, advocate of cooking with your kids, and tireless champion of the joys of being in the kitchen, Mollie Katzen is one of my heroes. One of the first ways I ever learned to cook was by making my way through The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, back when I was a vegetarian. This woman knows how to write recipes with beautiful clarity. For years I have thought of her as a kind of kitchen goddess.
And now, once in awhile, I can talk to her on Twitter. (The world certainly is different than it was in 1986.)
So, when Mollie put up a recipe for homemade walnut butter on Twitter, I wrote down walnuts on the shopping list by the computer and started making it that night.
I’m so glad I did.
Do you know how much time it took to made homemade walnut butter? Well, there was the soaking — that happened overnight, as I slept. There was the roasting — 15 minutes in the oven while I typed away at something. There was the pulsing in the food processor, then adding of spices. All of 3 minutes.
Active time to make honey-roasted cinnamon walnut butter and cacao nib walnut butter? 7 minutes. And that’s estimating generously.
This is the first in a now-ongoing series we’ll be doing here: making things from scratch. Sure, all the meals we create are from scratch. However, I mean we’ll be making the ingredients I once thought magically appeared in a jar. Like our friend Maggy, I learned to make fresh ricotta cheese from our friend Jennifer Perillo, and I can never buy it in a tub from the grocery store again. (Check out Jennie’s other blog, Simple Scratch Cooking, for a real treat.) Like everything else we have made from scratch, it was far easier and more fun than I once thought. Since I went gluten-free, I want to know where my food comes from. I want to feed our daughter simple good food she helped us to make. Making food from scratch is nothing but good.
Honestly, writing a recipe for this feels a little silly. It’s technique more than anything. Soak, toast, puree, and add some flavor. That’s it. However, since Mollie Katzen’s recipe spurred me onto make this, we’re offering this more precise guide in the hopes you might feed this to your family too.
Also, once you have made this one, you can play with flavors. We made a cacao nib walnut butter that is addictive and goes great with roast chicken. Cut out the honey for that one.
p.s. If you want to skip the soaking and toasting, you can do this with raw walnuts too. The taste is different — more raw — but still good.
2 cups walnuts, shelled
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon roasted Saigon cinnamon
2 teaspoons walnut oil (or grapeseed or canola oil, if you don’t have walnut oil)
Soaking the walnuts. Put the walnuts in a large bowl and cover them with water. Soak them overnight. This will remove some of the bitterness that can be in walnuts.
Toasting the walnuts. Preheat the oven to 350°. Drain the water from the walnuts. Spread the walnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet in the oven and toast the walnuts until they are thoroughly dry and a bit toasted, about 15 minutes, turning them halfway throug. Do not let them grow dark! You don’t want burned walnuts. Take the walnut butter out of the oven and allow them to cool entirely.
Making the walnut butter. Put the toasted walnuts in the food processor. Run the processor until they are broken down and starting to turn sticky. Add the salt, honey, and cinnamon. Pulse. Taste the walnut paste to see if you want more salt, honey, or cinnamon. Trust your instincts. Keep the food processor running and add the oil, drizzling it in slowly. You have walnut butter.
We put our walnut butter into a small jar and have been eating it for nearly 2 weeks. It still tastes great.
Makes about 1 cup walnut butter.