Homemade almond butter is an old, old recipe; the oldest of which I found was in –
The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book, and Compleat Family Cook, by Sarah Harrison, dated 1739.
My Lady of Exeter’s Almond Butter, page 163
Take a good Handful of Almonds blanch’d in cold Water, and grind them very small in a stone Mortar; mingle them well with a Quart of sweet Cream, and strain them through a Cushion Canvas Strainer; afterwards take the Yolks of nine or ten Eggs, the Knots and Strings being taken away clear, and well beaten; mix them very well with the Cream and set it in a silver Skillet on a quick Fire, stirring it continually till it begins to curdle; then take it off the Fire, put it into your Strainer, and hang it up that your Whey may pass from it; that done break the Curd very well in your Dish with a Spoon, and season it with Rose water and Sugar to your Taste.
While working my way through the old method, I’ll be honest. I cheated. Grinding those almonds in a stone mortar would take longer than I was willing to commit, so my food processor helped out. I used modern sweet cream, added the egg yolks and used a modern skillet on a gas stove. Straining was tedious but uncomplicated. The rose water didn’t seem to change the taste much, but sugar certainly sweetened the dish. Almond butter made this way was actually quite good, but going through all that work inspired me to post a modern version of the recipe which is incredibly simple to create but requires a bit of muscle.
Let’s start with almonds. California is the most productive almond growing region in the world (who knew, right?). And we Californians (well, not me, of course) produce 100% of the U.S. domestic supply of almonds. Enough with trivial information. Let’s just say it was quite easy to find fresh almonds in SoCal.
Because are heading into the holiday season, Fa La La, you may want to gather LOTS of almonds, because jars of homemade almond butter (and other nut butters) are ideal gifts for culinary friends.
On to cooking…
Start by roasting your nuts (umm, yeah). Roasting your almonds isn’t a necessity but the flavor is noticeably enhanced if you do. The recommended time is 15 mins at 300 Fahrenheit.
After roasting, let the nuts cool a bit but they still need to be warm when you start breaking them down in the food processor.
Pour, Blend, and Believe
Pour the almonds into your food processor…and start blending. It’s takes awhile. This is one of those things where the wait is worth it. Like when you were ten years old and it was July 4th. The air was so steamy hot you could hardly breathe and there were at least 10 more floats to go in the Arnold Day Parade before the firetruck came through. And even though it literally burned your skin to touch the sides of the aluminum folding chair, if you could just hold on, the firemen would toss out candy as they drove by, and you might get some cherry jolly ranchers, which were just the “bomb”. And even if you didn’t get any cherry ones, you knew after the parade was over, you and your friends would bum money off your mom to run over and buy red, blue, yellow and green Lickety Lix frozen pops from the ice cream truck. I’m not sure almond butter is as good as those Lickety Lix frozen pops, but it’s close. So hang on to your panties, wipe the sweat off your brow, and just keep blending.
If your processor complains, give a few minutes rest. Eventually, with enough coaxing, your almonds WILL give you butter.
You might consider adding a bit of kosher salt. I generally don’t but … salt not only gives just a hint of seasoning to bring out the best in the nuts but also will decrease your bitter taste perception (who knew salt could do that?). Don’t jump to adding vegetable oil. You won’t need it; the oil in the almonds is enough to make it spreadable.
There is something wonderful about almond butter on celery sticks; that creamy nutty on crispy fresh crunch, yum!
About those raw almonds. Nuts quickly stale at room temperature. Freeze them in freezer bags if you aren’t planning to eat them or create butter right away. If you want to toast your nuts all at once before freezing them, go ahead. Good news is that you won’t be able to tell a difference between frozen toasted nuts, and those that are frozen fresh, then toasted later. Toasted nuts can be frozen for up to 1 month (for best tasting results).
- 4 cups (1.25 pounds) whole almonds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast until fragrant which is usually 8 - 10 minutes (rotate the baking sheet halfway through).
- Let almonds cool until they are just warm (about 20 minutes).
- Chop almonds in a food processor until oil is released and loose paste begins to form (about 5-7 minutes).
- Add kosher salt and pulse (about 3 times) to mix.
- Transfer almond butter to jar with lid.
- Almond butter can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.