Yummy food for your brood
Mar 18, 2011
Michigan Made: Koeze Company
The Grand Rapids maker of Cream-Nut peanut butter gives the story on its creamy and smooth varieties – and a peanut butter cookie recipe
Sink your teeth into this number: 1.5 million pounds. That's how much peanut butter – and peanut butter products – we consume here in the U.S. each year. And I couldn't be happier about it. I heart peanut butter. Seriously, I was one of those kids who had a daily dose of PB sandwiches (forget the jelly!).
So, since March is National Peanut Month, I thought it was only right that Crumbs highlight a Michigan peanut butter company.
Grand Rapids-based Koeze has been making peanut butter the same way since 1925. Their Cream-Nut brand, which lists just two ingredients – Virginia peanuts and sea salt – has been featured in a variety of popular publications, from Oprah's O Magazine to Everyday with Rachael Ray to Esquire.
And just how did a company that was founded in 1910 by Netherlands immigrant, Sibbele Koeze, go on to sell over half a million jars of peanut butter each year? According to Koeze's creative director Martin J. Andree, it's all about quality ingredients. Along with explaining more about Cream-Nut, Andree gave me a few more insights into one of my favorite things – and passed along one of his company's favorite peanut butter cookie recipes.
What makes Cream-Nut so unique?
What draws people to our peanut butter is that it tastes really traditional. It's wholesome and old-fashioned. Part of that is our company's story: We've been making our peanut butter the same way with the same ingredients that we have been since the 1930s. It's the kind of food that takes you back. If you compare ours to commercial peanut butters you'll see that on theirs, the second ingredient is molasses or sugar or something like that. The peanut butter tastes sweet, but ours really tastes like peanuts.
About those peanuts …
There are four types of peanuts in the U.S: Runner, Valencia, Spanish and Virginia. We use Virginia in Cream-Nut. With Virginia peanuts, the flavor tastes like a handful of fresh roasted peanuts you might get at a baseball game. Even though the name is Virginia, these peanuts are grown throughout the Southeast in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.
With our organic peanut butter, Sweet Ella's, we use organic Spanish peanuts. It's really tough to get organic peanuts. They grow in more arid places like New Mexico and Texas – dry ground. With the wet, humid environment in the South, they have to do more to keep the weeds away. But with the Spanish peanuts, they grow in different areas and taste entirely different. They're naturally sweet. And to crush them to use in peanut butter – well, it's a little like we're making hamburger out of a filet.
Popularity contest: smooth or creamy?
For us, it's a 60/40 split in favor of creamy. But even our creamy peanut butter is more chunky. We use vintage WWII machinery to crush the peanuts and, because of that process, it still has some chunks in it. That's why we work in small batches. With commercial varieties, they put the peanuts in some like a big, high-speed blender so that the peanut butter almost has more of a yogurt consistency. Ours just isn't like that.
And your personal favorite?
I'm a smooth guy. I like the Sweet Ella's organic smooth, but I also like the Cream-Nut smooth too, of course.
To find this Michigan-made product you can go to the Koeze.com site or look for it at local grocers. (I found mine at a neighborhood store.)
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Tell us your fave Michigan food!