This article originally appeared on Extracrispy.com
I am a peanut butter devotee, and have been for basically ever. There is no time of day that peanut butter doesn't sound like the right call, or a great foundation for a meal. I will spread it on toast or rice cakes, smear it on apple slices, and mix it into curries and sauces and marinades. At this point, peanut butter is likely coursing through my veins.
The nutty spread has a rich history, going back to the Ancient Aztecs and Incans, who roasted peanuts and ground them into a paste. But peanut butter as we think of it today made its debut in 1884, when Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut paste. Eleven years later, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yep, him again) patented a peanut butter making process. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, patented a peanut butter making machine. Even when it comes to creating peanut butter, it takes a village.
The same is true of discovering the best peanut butter. I joined forces with Gabbie, our intern extraordinaire, and Alex, our excellent videographer, to try 11 different kinds of peanut butter—all creamy, not crunchy, to keep it simple—to figure out which one was very best. Here's what we discovered:
The All-Natural, Separated Peanut Butters
These peanut butters claim "all-natural" or organic bonafides and have that thin (or thick, in some cases) slick of oil on top. They require stirring before spreading.
Justin's Classic Peanut Butter
Buy: $5; target.com
Justin's started out great: It was super smooth and easy to combine the butter with the oil on top. It was pleasingly gold in color. It had a great, classic label. And all of us had tried Justin's peanut butter cups and were big fans. But licking the peanut butter off the spoon was a disappointment to say the least. It tasted oddly sweet, and extremely oily, leaving a slick coating on our tongues. We could see this one being good for baking, but that was about it.
Brad's Organic Smooth Peanut Butter
Buy: $5; mercato.com
Brad's had a ton of oil on the top: So much so that it was hard to stir the butter without having the oil drip down the sides of the jar. Not great. But it really tasted like whole peanuts were used in the process—nut, husk, and shell—in a kind of bitter, kind of dusty sort of way. Alex described it as tasting "like the peanuts on the floor of Five Guys, but not in a bad way." It wasn't our favorite, but we wouldn't necessarily avoid it.
Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $22 for 2; amazon.com
The Smucker's was hard to stir, but once it was combined, this was our favorite in this category. It only has one ingredient—peanuts—and tastes like it. It was rich and pleasingly bitter. If you are a fan of peanut butter for the peanut taste, this is the jar for you. (We all went back for thirds of this one.)
Crazy Richard's 100% Peanuts Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $26 for 6; amazon.com
While it was super easy to stir, Crazy Richard's peanut butter was basically liquid. You were better suited spooning it out that spreading it with a knife. As for the taste? Well, it was deeply unexciting. The peanut taste was lacking, and it had no other strong flavors to speak of. It was inoffensive, but not recommended.
Winner: Smucker's, by a long shot.
The All-Natural, No-Stir Peanut Butter
These jars were both organic, and didn't require any stirring. It was an easier way to enjoy "good-for-you" peanut butter.
MaraNatha Organic No Stir Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $7; amazon.com
A health store favorite, MaraNatha was immediately intriguing. Clearly made by a company that also makes stir-required peanut butter, this one was definitely on the oily side. While we all agreed, this jar's sweetness would lend itself well to a PB&J, the gritty texture was off-putting. It was solidly okay, but nothing to write home about. Or, if you're more blunt and/or Gabbie, "There's no reason for this."
365 Organic Creamy Peanut Butter
This unassuming jar was our surprise favorite. Who woulda thought Whole Foods' house brand knew peanut butter so well? The perfect, spreadable texture, this peanut butter boasted perfect levels of sweet and salty. It had the rich peanut-y taste that adults will appreciate, but a smooth, easy texture that will appeal to kids. And us 20-somethings, too, frankly.
The winner: 365, hands down.
The Non-Stir Grocery Store Staples
These peanut butters are the ones that are easiest to find at just about every grocery store or bodega. They're the brands we grew up with, and the ones easiest to eat right out of the jar.
Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $4; walmart.com
All three of us were ready to dismiss Reese's peanut butter, expecting it to taste more like the candy than anything we want to put on a sandwich. But we were wrong. While it was definitely one of the sweeter peanut butters, it wasn't offensive. The consistency was wonderfully creamy. We could imagine this being a great base for cookies, a peanut butter cheesecake, or even a buttercream. And we wouldn't hate to find it smeared on toast.
Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $3; target.com
Skippy was super sweet—in a faux-caramely, fake way—but the aftertaste was bitter. It tasted nostalgic—"like the Lunchables version of peanut butter," said Alex. But it seemed liked that if we ate any more of it, we'd get a stomachache. Gabbie grew up on Skippy, and said, mildly shocked, "I can't believe I liked eating that for so many years." We'll pass on this one.
Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $3; target.com
With the disappointment of other childhood favorites fresh, I'll admit I felt nervous to try the peanut butter I grew up with. I didn't need to be. Jif was mildly salty with a well-balanced sweetness. It was "more natural tasting" than a lot of our other grocery store picks—which is to say, it actually tasted like peanuts. My childhood memories could remain intact.
Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator
Buy: $21 for 6; amazon.com
Cute label aside, this pick had an almost disturbingly thick, heavy consistency. While the initial taste was a-okay—salty and appropriately peanut-y—there was a strange, brown sugar aftertaste that we didn't love. It was fine! But it won't turn into our go-to.
Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter
Buy: $3; walmart.com
With a gritty texture, bitter flavor, and aspartame-y aftertaste, people actually said "ew" after tasting this contender. We'll pass. Forever.
Winner: Jif. Choosy moms are right.
But we were unanimous in our decision for overall winner: Whole Foods' 365 Organic Creamy Peanut Butter knows what's up.
30 Best Oreo Flavors, Ranked and Tested
We write about Oreos a lot here. Like, a lot a lot. But can you blame us? The classic cookie has been around longer than any of us have (since 1912!), and there are so many Oreo recipes and desserts out there that frankly, we’re surprised that we as a society haven’t caused a nationwide shortage. There are few things in the world more simple and versatile as an Oreo cookie and milk (yes, that includes all of the 85-plus flavors in the brand’s history), and it’s safe to say we’re just a little bit obsessed. Case in point, this giant Oreo cake, these Oreo truffles, this Oreo popcorn, and this Oreo cookie skillet. You get the idea.
It was only a matter of time before we turned around and said, “Have we ever tried them all in one sitting?” We hadn’t. So we did.
Of course, there were hiccups. Although so many Oreo flavors have emerged over the course of the cookie brand’s 110-year lifespan, some flavors are hard to find on shelves. Some seem to be discontinued. Others are only available overseas. Green tea Oreos, for instance, are only available in Japan. (But whyyyy?) That said, our editors are nothing if not intrepid, tracking down a whopping 30 Oreo varieties for an in-depth taste test.
Without further ado, here’s our worst-to-best ranking of every Oreo flavor we could get our hands on. Let us know if we missed any favorites!
How to convert a mushroom hater
As with any difficult relationship, Ollie, it can take work, but there is hope. “When you say, ‘I don’t like mushrooms’, it’s like saying you don’t like wine,” says self-confessed fungus obsessive Will Murray. “There are so many varieties out there, and they all behave in different ways.” The chef and co-founder of Fallow in London, who even grows his own at the restaurant, adds: “If, for example, you brine and deep-fry grey oyster mushrooms, they take on the texture of fried chicken.”
Perhaps a simpler strategy in the fight against squishy, spongy mushrooms, however, is to fry them on a high heat. “You need to be in danger of setting off the smoke alarm, or you’re not doing it properly,” Murray says. Then, as in life, it pays to be patient – and use more butter than seems reasonable. “Mushrooms hold a lot of liquid, so you need to fry them for quite a while to get them crisp,” says Helen Graham, head chef of veg-led Bubala in London. “If you don’t take them to the colour you want before adding other stuff to the pan, the mushrooms will never catch up.”
You could also try replicating Bubala’s charred oyster mushroom skewers. “We marinate the mushrooms in soy sauce, agave, coriander seeds, garlic and vegetable oil, then thread on to skewers and grill,” Graham says. “The agave helps to caramelise them, and obviously the oil helps to give crispiness and a really nice texture.”
Alternatively, pop a portobello in a bun. “I grew up in the Middle East, where it’s always barbecue weather,” says Noor Murad, who heads up the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen. “I love throwing mushrooms on the grill and slathering them in barbecue sauce [homemade or store-bought].” Melt a square of cheese on top, if you fancy, and serve with slaw.
It’s also worth considering how you prep the mushrooms. “You want to keep their meaty integrity, so you can really get your teeth into them, which means don’t chop them too small,” Murad explains. That said, a duxelles [finely chopped mushrooms cooked in butter with onions or shallots and herbs] might be a good gateway. “If she doesn’t enjoy the texture of mushrooms, make a very finely chopped duxelles,” Murray says. “The mushrooms dissolve into the sauce and add a rich undercurrent of earthy umami.” Spread on toast, add to omelettes or mashed potato, or go all out with a wellington.
You could also, of course, do away with cooking them altogether. “Raw mushrooms aren’t slimy,” says Murray, who suggests thinly slicing chestnuts or portobellos, dressing them with sherry vinegar (“or even a little sherry”), dijon mustard, olive oil, fresh herbs and minced garlic, then adding to salads. Dried mushrooms, meanwhile, have “second chance” written all over them. “They’re amazing, especially in the base of soups and stews,” Murad says. “You don’t get the texture, but you’ll get that umaminess – maybe that’s a good way to get Ollie’s partner to like mushrooms.” Graham agrees. She adds shiitake (“porcini would be equally delicious”) and kombu to stock, reduces down “with something tangy like pomegranate molasses”, then uses it as a sauce for cabbage. Happily, it’s good with other veg, too, so there’s shroom to manoeuvre. *groans*
Preventing food fraud: Europe’s battle against the spice pirates
Spices are among the oldest food products in the world and still enjoy great popularity today. But h..
Spices are among the oldest food products in the world and still enjoy great popularity today. But how can we be sure of their quality and authenticity? With serious money to be made, counterfeiters are often attempting to fradulently pass off inferior products as the genuine article.
To find out more about how fraud in this arena can be identified and stopped, we went to Belgium to meet a spice trader – and also to see scientists working at the Joint Research Centre’s Fraud Detection Unit.
Herbs and spices are the daily business of Alexandre Veuve; he is the manager of the prestigious spice specialist and gourmet grocery store Le Tour Du Monde En Epices in Waterloo, south of Brussels.
As an expert in the sector, he always guarantees that the products he sells are of the highest quality:
However, he knows only too well that fraud is a common risk in this market:
“There is generally fraud on quite expensive spices, for example saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.
“Powders are also the target of fraud because they can be more easily falsified.
“That’s why we make our own powders; we buy the spices whole and then we create them ourselves.”
“There is ofen fraud on quite expensive spices – for example, saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.”Euronews
Europe’s food fraud unit
One of the facilities of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Geel in Belgium hosts the European Food Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit. Here, teams of scientists analyse samples of spices imported to Europe using state-of-the-art technologies, in some cases using methods similar to those used for police investigations.
One of the most powerful tools at their disposal is DNA analysis. The genetic map of the spice can indicate whether or not there are foreign biological elements present.
The most common types of fraud are the use of less expensive plants, or the addition of dyes to make the spice appear more attractive or authentic.
Antoon Lievens, a Molecular Biologist at the Unit, says saffron is a good example of where fraud is regularly attempted:
“We’ve found one or two samples that were not saffron at all and the sequencing analysis has shown that it was safflower that has been sold as saffron.
“Another exemple is curcuma (turmeric). We’ve found a sample that was not curcuma, but actually paprika powder that had been dyed or coloured to look like curcuma.”
Analysis via spectroscopy
The detection of fraud is based on a set of investigative protocols, each of which unveils a part of the puzzle. Spectroscopy is one powerful method; it doesn’t require special sample preparation and allows a rapid result through the examination of the samples molecules by a laser beam.
Jone Omar, an Analytical Chemist at the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, says this is a foolproof method:
“Spectroscopy is basically based on a ray of light touching the sample, which makes the molecules vibrate and we then obtain a light spectrum readout of the vibration of those molecules.
“So when we focus on a pure food, we have a pure spectrum for it.
“When we spot an adulteration, the spectrum of the vibration of the molecule bands is different.”
This x-ray fluorescence technique, which is also used for non-invasive analysis of artworks to establish authenticity or otherwise, reveals whether or not inorganic materials – such as sand or clay – are present in the plant sample.
Chemical tests such as liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry allow, through the separation of the molecules, the establishment of whether or not there are traces of external dyes present.
These same techniques are also used to create chemical fingerprints of spices, which can then provide even more in-depth information about the nature of the sample.
If the adulteration is confirmed, certain measures can then be taken.
Franz Ulberth, Head of the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, explains:
“One of the further measures could be that you send inspectors to check the company, to look into the books, to (examine) transportation papers, establishing a chain of traceability, to trace it back to the origin.”
The spice production and distribution supply chain is spread between different countries and this makes controls more complicated.
In a growing market of global scale, the use of these techniques is key to certifying the quality of the product.
The post Preventing food fraud: Europe's battle against the spice pirates first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.