I’m always amazed at the selection of fresh foods that are available in Italy – particularly foods that change with the seasons, from spring fava beans to summer artichokes to autumn mushrooms to winter nuts.
Lately those nuts have been on my mind, because the nuts bought in winter and kept in the freezer can last all year … and (drum roll) you can make nut butters with them!
Nut butters can be hard to find even in US grocery stores, but they’re nearly impossible to find in Italy. Peanut butter can sometimes be spotted in larger supermarkets that cater to stranieri (foreigners), but of course peanuts are a legume anyway, and the nuts I’ve had on my mind lately are tree nuts – particularly cashews, walnuts, almonds, macadamias and hazelnuts – because they make fabulous homemade butters! Yep, homemade.
And why should you be making your own nut butters? Well, let me count the ways …
Homemade nut butters:
- cost waaaaay less than store bought nut butters (if you can even find them)
- are loaded with healthy fats and nutrients
- are super easy to make
- can be used in a plethora of recipes
- taste absolutely delicious!
Here are the only 2 items you need to get started.
- Food processor (on the heavy duty side is better)
- Tree nuts (almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews … or even shredded coconut)
Nut butters take several minutes to make – as many as 10-15 minutes, depending on the type of nut you’re using and the power level of your food processor. It’s a good idea to put the food processor in another room or out on your porch (that’s what I do) because those machines can be really loud!
- Put 1-2 cups of raw or roasted nuts (I prefer raw) into the food processor – depending on the capacity of your machine.
- Process on high speed. The nuts will turn to meal in just a couple of minutes.
- Continue to process on high for several more minutes and the meal will become thicker and paste-like. It will also be very warm from the processing! (As the mixture thickens, it will likely stick to the sides of the processor bowl. Stop the machine from time to time and scrape down the sides with a spatula.)
- Continue to process on high speed for several minutes until the oils are released from the nut mixture and it has become a smooth, creamy consistency. (It’s really fun to see that happen!) If you’d prefer a smoother consistency, just process a bit longer.
- Optional: Blend in a pinch of sea salt, sweetener (like Stevia) or even unsweetened cocoa powder to flavor the nut butter. (I usually leave mine plain.)
Now you get to scoop your beautiful nut butter into glass jars. Store the jars in a dark, cool cabinet for short periods of time, or in the refrigerator for longer preservation. Refrigeration certainly makes nut butters last longer (weeks or months) and the cold keeps the oil from separating, but room temperature nut butters taste better and spread better too. Just be a bit careful. Since there are no preservatives (thank goodness) in homemade nut butter, it will go rancid over time – just as any butter does.
The photos above show the processing stages of hazelnut butter, but you can use virtually any kind of nuts to make nut butter – even coconut (see below)!
You can then enjoy your homemade nut butters on sliced apples, in oatmeal, in protein shakes, on pancakes (gluten–free, of course) or right out of the jar on a spoon (my husband’s favorite way)!
Pamela Haack is an Italy travel consultant and author who specializes in creating group trips and personalized experiences for travelers who like active vacations in Italy – off the beaten strada.
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