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Jawahar Nagar Peanut Butter

The Jawahar Nagar household: Dr. and Mrs. Sharma have two grown children, a son studying in England and a daughter working in Delhi. And at present they have five videshi (foreigner) lodgers: me and four current or former students in the American Institute of Indian Studies Hindi Language Program here in Jaipur, to wit, Max, Chloe, Martha, and Sam (all just out of college or a couple years into grad school in various Indological subjects). There's also an Indian lodger named Bhanu.

Well, one day the American students were lamenting the impossibility of finding peanut butter here in Jaipur (rumor has it that there's one store in Delhi that carries it, but it doesn't have much of an Indian market in general). Fast-forwarding through the Young People These Days Are So Dependent on Commercially Processed Products and Don't Understand the Importance of Whole Foods lecture, I said "well, we could *make* some peanut butter." This was received favorably but a little dubiously, but we agreed to make the experiment.

Well, mostly what you need for peanut butter is peanuts and a peanut smusher, right? And certainly you can get peanuts in India, they sell them everywhere. So off I went to the bazaar to buy something that would do duty as a peanut smusher. With my limited Hindi, this wasn't trivial; even with less limited Hindi I would probably not know words like "grinder" or "mortar and pestle". But with a lot of sign language, and after refusing to buy an eggbeater, a handheld electric whisk, and a few other suggested items, I ended up with a hand-cranked nut chopper and a small mortar and pestle. After some experimentation and making a complete mess of the kitchen, here's the technique we evolved:

Martha and Chloe buy a kilo of peanuts, and when we discover they're raw and you can't make peanut butter from raw peanuts, Martha dry-roasts them in an iron pan on the two-burner tabletop gas stove. (It is not easy to do this without burning them, but slightly burned peanuts are okay.) Sifting out the peanuts from the papery red peanut skins is feasible via the ancient grain-threshing method of tossing them in the air and letting the wind carry away the chaff, but it wastes a lot of peanuts and makes a terrible mess on the balcony, so it's simpler just to leave the skins on. I put them through the nut chopper and produce a sort of dry peanut gravel. Chloe grinds up the sugar (there's only coarse chunk sugar like kosher salt here, not granulated) in the small mortar and pestle. Mrs. Sharma's sister finds a big cast-iron mortar and pestle in a kitchen cupboard, and into it we put the peanut gravel, sugar, salt (too much salt, my fault) and a little sunflower oil to make grinding easier, and take turns sitting on the floor working away with the pestle. It never becomes what you'd call smooth, but it satisfies the peanut butter craving. About half a bag of peanuts makes about a week's worth of peanut butter, and we finished the last today, so I guess it's time to make some more!

—— Kim Plofker
2003-10-11 09:54:10


       
 
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Created: 08 Oct 2003
Last modified: Oct 15, 2004 3:58:04 PM
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