Ever wanted to learn to make your own peanut butter? If you really want to see how to make natural, organic peanut butter in Guatemala, then you’re in luck. We met Lidia, a local Guatemalan who makes her own peanut butter from scratch. And I mean from scratch. And fortunately for us, they run a peanut butter workshop so you can learn how they do it.
Lidia told us that her family is one of only eight families in Antigua who farm peanuts. And her family are the only ones to make peanut butter! She said that the more people there are selling peanuts, the lower the price of peanuts get. If you can find something new or different to do, then you can get a better price for your peanuts. Her family have been making peanut butter for four years now.
The Peanut Plant
Any idea what a peanut plant looks like? Well, us neither.
Turns out the peanut plant is small and low to the ground. Actually, the peanuts grow in the roots of the plant. This was a total surprise to me after seeing macadamia nuts growing in trees in Antigua just last year. Well, I guess peanuts are a different nut! Here’s what a peanut plant looks like:
Before you make your own peanut butter, you need to harvest them from the peanut plant. Lidia explained to us that her family grow the peanuts organically on the slopes of Volcan Agua. They have around 10,000 plants there and need to harvest them every year. When the weather gets too hot, they move the peanut plants from the sun scalded slopes of the volcano to the cool shade of their house. The one above is one of the peanut bushes they moved to their home.
Shelling the Peanuts
The first step to make your own peanut butter the Guatemalan way is to shell the peanuts. I’m sure I used to do this as a kid when my mum bought monkey nuts on the odd occasion. You just need to push the shells with your thumb and they’ll crack. Two peanuts will pop right out. Push too hard though and the whole nut shatters (I did this a few times!)
Sorting the Peanuts
Once the peanuts are shelled, you need to sort out the good ones from the bad ones. We removed all the little niggly ones or any that had black bits on them. We kept all of the shells and bad peanuts as Lidia’s family use these to feed their horse. Nothing is wasted here!
Roasting the Peanuts
There are very few Guatemalans who have an oven or even a stove. Most Guatemalans still cook on an open fire. Lidia’s kitchen had a wood fire under a cement base, which she lit by hand. On top of the fire sits a large, flat steel plate. We peanuts are roasted on top of the plate. But you can’t control the heat of the fire underneath which means you need to constantly stir the nuts to make sure they don’t burn.
The peanuts take around 15 minutes to roast. When they’re ready, they start to make a popping noise not dissimilar from popcorn! The skin on the peanuts turns a dark purplish colour and the skin starts to peel off. Lidia told us that it’s important to roast the peanuts not only to remove the skin but because it gives the peanut butter a richer colour and a nicer taste.
Shaking the Peanuts
When the peanuts are done roasting, it’s time to cool them down so the skins can be peeled off. Lidia does this by shaking the peanuts in a basket. Not only does this speed up the cooling process, but some of the peel also comes off while doing this. We took turns shaking the peanuts around for about 10 minutes. Lidia checked the temperature with her hand and let us know when they were ready.
Peeling and Fanning the Peanuts
Next, we peeled the skins off the peanuts. It came off pretty easily. We also the fanned the peanuts. This helps to remove any excess peel that’s come loose and gotten caught up. It was a pretty fun experience because who ever thought we’d be fanning peanuts? Lidia poured a peanut waterfall from her bowl while we rapidly fanned them.
Grinding the Peanuts
Now, the hard part – grinding the peanuts by hand. Lidia’s family have a grindstone in their kitchen which they use to grind peanuts, coffee and maize (corn). We asked if they used it for chillies as well, but she shook her head. She said they wouldn’t use a grindstone for chillies because they wouldn’t want the spices to mix with the peanuts or coffee. Very sensible!
We’d used a grindstone just like this when we were learning to cook pepian last year and also during a chocolate making workshop in Belize. We already knew that it was going to be hard work to turn those peanuts into a paste. Lidia led the way, showing us the grinding technique. We both had a go but eventually had to leave it up to Lidia to get the peanuts down to the final, smooth paste.
Our Final Peanut Butter!
Lidia doesn’t add anything to her peanut butter – no sugar, no salt, no oil, nothing. It’s just pure, organic peanuts. And would you look at how beautiful our final peanut butter paste looks? Good enough to eat, right? And eat it we did.
Who doesn’t love eating freshly made peanut butter? Peanut butter is every backpackers most treasured travel companion. It’s healthy, nutritious and super tasty. I carry a jar of peanut butter with me everywhere. It’s the perfect thing to spread on sliced apple, bread or on tortillas if you’re Guatemalan.
Lidia said her family eat peanut butter every day. For breakfast they make a roll out of a wheat flour tortilla, some peanut butter, sliced banana and a drizzle of honey. We asked if they used peanut butter to make savoury sauces for meals but she said no – they keep it simple and like to eat it just like this. I was excited to tuck into my peanut butter banana tortilla and you can bet that the peanut butter tasted 100% amazing.
At the end of the peanut butter workshop, you get to take home your own jar of Lidia’s peanut butter. I’d already eaten half the jar after just one day! There’s nothing like learning to make your own peanut butter. Except maybe then getting to eat all the 100% organic, all-natural peanut butter you can.
Make Your Own Peanut Butter with De La Gente
The peanut butter workshop is run by De La Gente. They are the same community tourism organisation who we learned to cook pepian with. If you would like to learn to make your own peanut butter with Lidia, you can find all the information you need on their website. The workshop runs every day at either 9am or 1pm, but you need to give 24 hours notice. The workshop costs 100Q per person.