Peanut butter history doesn’t date back that far. Although the peanut has a long history, having been found in Peruvian mummy tombs, peanut butter is a relatively young food.
In 1890, an enterprising physician, Dr. John Kellogg (of corn flakes fame), created peanut butter as a healthy protein substitute that was easy to digest for patients with no teeth. The manufacturing process was mechanized by George A. Bayle, Jr., and a patent for a peanut-butter machine was issued to Abrose W. Straub in 1903.
In 1904, peanut butter came into the limelight at the St. Louis Universal Exposition by concessionaire C. H. Sumner, where it was promoted as a health food.
When innovative agricultural scientist Dr. George Washington Carver developed an improved version of the butter, it attracted even more enthusiasts.
In 1922, peanut butter was commercially-born when J. L. Rosefield of Rosefield Packing Company of Alameda, California perfected a process to keep the oil from separating in the peanut butter along with spoilage prevention methods. He marketed this commercial peanut butter under the name Skippy® as “churned” peanut butter, which was a smoother, creamier version of the coarse-textured original.
Today, there are hundreds of brands and varieties to list in the peanut butter history hall of fame.
Nowadays, more than half the American peanut crop goes into the making of peanut butter, but surprisingly, the majority of peanut butter consumed in the United States is imported.
Federal law mandates that any product labeled as peanut butter must contain at least 90 percent peanuts, with the remaining 10 percent restricted to salt, sweeteners, and stabilizers.
In 1992, statistics showed Americans alone consumed 857 million pounds of peanut butter or 3.36 pounds per person.
An American-born favorite, peanut butter quickly became not only a nutritious food, but also a comfort food for most Americans born in the 1900’s. Now its popularity has spread throughout the world. October is Peanut Butter Lover’s Month.
Peanut Butter Selection
Peanut butter is available in smooth, chunky (with small bits of chopped peanuts), natural, reduced-fat, no sugar added, and even swirled with jelly for those time-challenged consumers.
Commercial varieties are usually a blend of ground, shelled, roasted peanuts mixed with vegetable oil (usually hydrogenated) and a bit of salt. Some varieties also contain sugar and additives as stabilizers to prevent oil separation and to also enhance flavor.
Natural peanut butter normally contains only peanuts and oil, and will often separate requiring stirring.
Peanut Butter Storage
Homemade peanut butter should be refrigerated in tightly-sealed containers and ideally used within a couple of weeks. Turn the container upside-down occasionally to help redistribute the oils.
Natural peanut butters should be refrigerated after opening and can be kept up to six months.
Commercial varieties require no refrigeration, can be kept up to six months after opening. Unopened jars can be stored up to one year in a cool, dark location.
Peanut butter is not a good candidate for freezing.
Peanut Butter History Photo ©2018 Peggy Filippone