I don’t need to convince you that peanut butter is a good thing for families. It’s the go-to happy-making jar o’ protein we all love. But there are a couple of things that I’m not loving about most of the peanut butter on the shelf at the store. First is sugar – peanut butter usually has far too much sugar in it. It’s often the second ingredient on the list and that seems excessive. I like to use peanut butter in sauces for pasta and in sweet potato stew – not places I’d like to throw in an extra serving of sugar.
The second is palm oil. Or as it is often ambiguously named vegetable oil. How’s that for vague? Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit, and oil palm trees grow exceedingly well in hot and wet climates. The majority of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, where vast areas of rainforest are destroyed each year to create more space for oil palm plantations.
It is the world’s favourite edible oil, and consumption is growing at an incredible rate. Our consumption of palm oil is rocketing. Compared to levels in 2000, demand is predicted to more than double by 2030 and triple by 2050 as we find ways to include it in everything from baked goods to body products and make-up to biofuel.
Biofuel may have a lovely green ring to it, but the palm oil monocrop has serious social and environmental consequences.
“The irony is that these attempts to reduce the impact of climate change could actually make things worse – clearing forests and draining and burning peatlands to grow palm oil will release more carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels. “ Greenpeace
Natural habitats for orangutans and other wildlife are threatened by this deforestation. Socially, expanding plantations mean that arable land is being used to grow non-food which is problematic in our hungry age.
You can read more about these issues here:
Palm oil needs reconsidering if our goal is sustainability.
You may have heard about the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. This is an active non-profit organisation which includes members from all steps along the palm oil production and supply chain. Its aim is to promote sustainable palm oil by establishing industry standards relating to environmental and social concerns. There’s good work being done, and encouragingly, 14 per cent of palm oil used globally is now certified by the RSPO. But there are also some serious concerns among palm oil activist groups over the RSPO’s standards of regulation. Some have labeled to organisation a “green wash” and claimed that palm oil production cannot be proven to be sustainable due to its lack of regulations.
We could spend a lot of time wading through all the claims on both sides. But perhaps the easiest step on a personal level is to consider our own palm oil consumption. We have friends who started baking their own bread when they found that the organic whole wheat loaves they were buying contained palm oil. There are lots of ideas here on renewandsustain for soap and other health and beauty products. As for my little family, we’re thinking nuts.
Peanut butter to be specific.
The recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. It is – rightly- the first recipe in this excellent book. You can make it as almond butter or peanut butter or likely any other butter that you’d like to concoct. Here’s how we do it. (But take note – this is a recipe that the Spouse has owned. I just take the photos and eat the rewards…)
Makes: one jar – about one small jar
1 pound peanuts
1 tsp salt
canola or corn oil
Put your oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Get the kids to shell the peanuts. If you like, you can remove the papery skins, but we don’t bother with it. Spread peanuts on a rimmed baking tray and roast until smell wonderful and look darker in colour – about 5 minutes. You can turn the tray around halfway through if you feel that it is necessary. When they are done, pour the peanuts into a bowl to cool.
Blitz the nuts in your food processor until their oil is released and they start to look pasty. At first, it will look mealy, but keep going and you’ll see what you’re looking for. This may take 5 minutes or it may take longer, depending on how powerful your machine is. Scrape down the bowl as you go to be consistent. You may need to add oil – we used canola oil but corn would work, too – sometimes peanuts are oily enough on their own and sometimes they need some help. Add salt to taste and pulse to incorporate it.