Southern Pantry: Peanut Butter, Plain and SimpleAugust 1, 2013
South of the Mason-Dixon, peanuts are not the stale nuggets that the rest of the country buys salted and plastic-wrapped at gas stations. They are living beans picked fresh and boiled until just tender, or slow-roasted to the point of perfect crunch. It only stands to reason that the state of Virginia, home to some of the country’s best goobers, would spawn a peanut butter that brings real flavor to a field long dominated by processed big-name brands.
Photographs courtesy of Sara Harris Photography
Andrew Broocker founded the Rockville-based Reginald’s Homemade several years ago with just a few simple nut butters. Today, his roster includes such creations as a bourbon-pecan-peanut butter and a peanut-macadamia butter swirled with chunks of white chocolate. For pure peanut flavor, though, you can’t beat the original, a simple blend of roasted Virginia peanuts and peanut oil. We caught up with Broocker earlier this week to talk about all things creamy, crunchy, and roasted.
Why peanut butter?
Probably five or six years ago, I decided to lose some weight. I changed my diet and lost so much, actually, that I started feeling sluggish. So I went out looking for healthy things to eat that could add some calories. I picked up a jar of chunky, unsalted, all-natural peanut butter at the grocery store, and before I knew it, I’d eaten three-quarters of it. I’d always eaten peanut butter growing up, but for some reason it really hit the spot just then. I started craving it, putting it on anything and everything. I tried all the different all-natural brands before I started experimenting with making my own.
Being in Virginia, you do have access to some pretty good peanuts.
I can’t criticize any other peanut, but for my money, the Virginia peanut is the best there is. I get mine from a guy in Wakefield, which is a town in southeastern Virginia that calls itself the peanut capital of the world. They’re perfect peanuts. And we do everything but grow the peanut, which is what really makes the difference. I’m not reinventing the wheel, but I do believe that peanut butter should taste like peanuts. Even with our different flavors, it’s always about the peanut. None of the other flavors will ever overpower the peanut.
How do you come up with your flavors?
You know, it depends. The apple [Apple Sin] was the first one that I made. I was already using apple slices to scoop up peanut butter, and I figured out how to dehydrate the apple and make it into a kind of spice powder. That way, you get the apple infused into the peanut butter. I got the idea for the bourbon pecan when we were out for Mother’s Day one year. There was a bourbon pecan pie on the dessert menu at this restaurant, and I thought that would make a perfect peanut butter. That’s the only peanut butter I’ve made that was perfect the first time I made it. I didn’t have to tweak the recipe at all.
Do you still catch yourself craving peanut butter?
Oh man, I don’t even keep track of how much peanut butter I eat. Fortunately, my wife is a peanut butter fanatic too. In my house, we’ll have fifteen jars of creamy and crunchy at any given time. Occasionally I’ll bring home a flavor, but it’s mostly creamy and crunchy. Yeah, I still put peanut butter on everything. That hasn’t changed. We’re about to have our first kid, and we joke that, damn, we hope that baby doesn’t have a peanut allergy.
What’s the most unusual way you use it?
Well, I’m certainly not original in this, but peanut butter does taste really good on a hamburger.