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How The Experts Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day

Georgia Grinders Peanut ButterOfficially National Peanut Butter Day falls on January 24; but every day is Peanut Butter Day when you love the gooey stuff. And what’s not to love. Peanut butter is not only luscious. It’s heroic.

The gorgeous spread, one of the original health foods, is fighting malnutrition in Africa. Hershey distributes free specially fortified Vivi peanut butter bars to Ghanaian schoolchildren— and the peanuts are locally sourced

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In Prevention magazine, Chef Marge Perry gives us a tour of peanut butter perks, as well as some advice. (e.g. “Keep in mind that higher sodium content tends to mask the flavor.”) And she tells us which brands (mostly mass market) she likes to use for which purposes

 

Peanut butter’s modern history is neatly encapsulated on a peanutbutterlovers.com website timeline, posted by the Southern Peanut Growers. One peanut pioneer was health food innovator Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, the cornflakes guy).

Kooeze Company Creamnut Peanut ButterTo get the real skinny on peanut butter, your intrepid reporter caught up with two indie PB providers — Jeff Koeze of the Koeze Company and Harry Foster of Georgia  Grinders.

The Koeze Company (based in Grand Rapids MI) was established in 1910 by Jeff’s great grandfather and has been in the peanut butter business since 1925. That’s when Jeff’s grandfather bought a local peanut butter company. Why did he buy it? Nobody knows.

Using roasting and grinding methods from the 1920s and  “modern” equipment from the ‘40s, Koeze produces what one might call artisan peanut butter.

Koeze noted that his company uses the same type of peanuts today as were used in the 1920s. They’re little bit harder to find and most are more expensive.

 

“There are different kinds of peanuts and they taste different,” he explained. “We use Virginia which is a geographic designation but is really a variety of peanuts. The peanut most people use is called the runner. The breeding has been going on to improve their yield. That’s a common peanut you find every day in 99% of the peanut butters. If you compared these two side by side you’d immediately notice."

He added that the mass market peanut butters compensate for the difference in taste by adding a lot of sugar and salt.

Also, the Koeze Company champions really dark roasting.

Every second you toast costs money," said Jeff Koeze. “It drives more moisture out and it takes time. So people who are trying to make peanut butter as cheaply as possible roast as light as they can and try to make up for the lack of peanut flavor with the flavor of other things.”

The Koeze Company  sells through stores, has two of it s own retail stores in Grand Rapids and also has an online direct sales presence  

When it comes to peanut butter, Jaime and Harry Foster of Georgia-based Georgia Grinders are relative newbies. They were looking to “reset” their lives. (“My wife was in corporate America, ”said Harry, “and I worked in the government.”) Their story also has a grandfather.  It seems Jaime’s grandfather was an engineer and, as Harry tells it, “someone gave him a jar of almond butter. He looked at it and said, ‘I can make this better.’ He bought a little grinder and perfected the recipe.”

Said recipe stayed in the family for 40 years. When the Fosters plotted their escape into “do your own thing" land, the family nut butter seemed the way to go. A grinder was made to their specifications and there were ”a lot of messy kitchen experiments.” they launched their company in 2012 with their first offering, Natural Almond Butter. They took their show on the road by selling at Farmers’ Markets.

I remember the first farmers market we ever did,” said Harry. “We sold 40 jars and we thought we were rich.”

Sales increased. It didn’t hurt to be called “Oprah's favorite nut butter” in 2013. In 2014, the inevitable happened.

"It never occurred to us,” said Harry Foster, “that we’d be doing anything other than almonds.”

But they were in Georgia, a state where the peanut is the official state nut, and they felt what the state needed was a gourmet, natural peanut butter.

“We rebranded our company as Georgia Grinders,” said Harry, “which is where we are and what we do.

"Our Georgia Grinders Peanut Butters,” he continued, “are just like our almond butters — no additives, no preservatives, small batch, handmade. We own and operate our own facilities. We manufacture everything in house in small batches.”

 

Although they’ve earned respectable distribution in leading grocery chains, they still go back to Farmers’ Markets.

“It’s fun,” said Harry.

Whether you celebrate National Peanut Butter Day on January 24 or everyday, remember: It’s healthy, tasty, handy — and fun.