Tag Archives: peanuts

Pizootz Peanuts

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As we all know damn well, shelled peanuts that aren’t cross-contaminated with tree nuts are hard as hell to find. America’s Best Nut Co. makes some—the best, actually, end of story—but theirs are rather expensive, and I can’t justify shelling out $40 or so for a shipment each time I crave a peanut. For a once-in-a-while treat, America’s Best are absolutely perfect. But what about when I don’t want my peanuts to feel acutely like a finite resource? When I want to eat them by the handful, Planters-style, without being hounded by any sort of compulsion to calculate the cost per bite? When I want to bake them into some brownies, or sprinkle them atop some noodles? When I want, in general, to be reckless?

For that, I need access to plain old inexpensive, non-gourmet peanuts—ones I can pick up at an actual store in my actual area for, like, $3 a bag. And…with regard to that want, I’m still shit out of luck. But Pizootz are certainly a little cheaper, a little more accessible, a little more casual than America’s Best. It’s all in the names, really. America’s Best, refined and proper, might just sell America’s best peanuts; but Pizootz, with their playful  marketing and up-front flavors, is out there selling what I can only describe as a pizoot of a nut.

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A while back, I found a bag of Pizootz on a shelf in Chicago. (I’m a grocery-store tourist—whenever I go anywhere, I tour the regional grocery stores.) Right then and there, I sent Pizootz the same email I send to every company that looks like it might make safe peanuts, and within an hour (!!!), I’d heard back: “We do everything in house. No tree nuts. Only peanuts.” That was it. But that was, of course, all I needed to hear. So I went back and bought two bags, one of sea-salt-and-cracked-pepper peanuts, and one of dill-pickle peanuts.

Despite that word salad of a product description—seriously, click that last link, and let me know if you have any idea what those words are supposed to mean together, because they’ve bewildered me—the dill-pickle peanuts are excellent. Dill-pickle seasoning is usually too strong for me (see, for example, Halfpops), but the folks at Pizootz (or, uh, Dr. Alfred P. Pizootz himself, if we’re sticking to the lore) have somehow managed to get the proportions just right. These peanuts aren’t too briny, nor too dill’d up; they’re tangy, and they’re pickle-y, but they’re balanced, too. Plus, the flavoring is built-in, which means no dusty fingertips. Nice.

Those were the first Pizootz I tried, so it surprised me when the other flavors came bearing traces of the same tanginess. The cracked-pepper peanuts aren’t quite briny, nor are their plainer sea-salt cousins, but both are markedly tangier than your average peanut. The flavor isn’t unpleasant—there’s nothing wrong with it, really—but it’s something to be aware of, I guess. Personally, I happen to like it. For the most part. Most days.

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Anyway. When it comes to peanuts, dill-pickle flavoring is about as zany as I’ll go. (Originally, I’d bought those for Sam and only for Sam. I was shocked at how much I ended up liking them.) Otherwise, I’m a peanut purist—so for me the sea-salted peanuts, despite their untempered tang, are the way to go. Even the cracked pepper is too much for me, given the way it half-silences the peanuts’ actual, you know, peanut flavor. So sea salt it is. But that’s just me. Maybe you‘ve spent your whole life searching for safe Baja taco–inspired peanuts. And in that case, well…you’re in luck. (Look at that! Me, acknowledging any degree of subjectivity to food. Wild.)

Of course, these peanuts do come at a price—$19.99 per one-pound bag, to be exact. And while that price is, yes, pretty high, it isn’t actually all that crazy, given how long a pound of peanuts lasts (a long time, for me) and the fact that shipping’s free, always. So while Pizootz are certainly no Planters, I wouldn’t call them prohibitively expensive, either. I’d obviously prefer they were cheaper, or at least available in a store or two ’round these here parts, but…what can you do?

You can be grateful for what you’ve got, that’s what. Perhaps Pizootz is a little bit of a strange company. Perhaps their peanuts are a little small, a little feeble, a little lackluster. Perhaps they cost a little too much, or perhaps ordering them online is a little too much of a hassle. Perhaps their copy’s a little over-the-top, their handwritten notes (!!?!) a little too alliterative. Perhaps the flavor-infusion’s a little weird. Perhaps dusty fingertips aren’t so bad. But whatever your gripe—and I suppose I have plenty—you oughtn’t overlook Pizootz as an option. And a decent one, at that.

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A Guide to Tree Nut–Free Peanuts and Peanut Butters

You can spend as much time as you’d like combing through Google results; you won’t find much in the way of information on tree nut–free peanut products. I’ve been complaining about this for a while (and I’ve blogged about it before, no doubt) but I figure it’s probably time to actually do something about the issue.

So…I have. I reached out to approximately half a billion peanut and peanut butter companies, and this post is the result. I’ve only included companies that are reasonably allergy-friendly, so if a brand’s not on this list, I’ve either never come across it or I’ve come across it and found that it’s probably not a viable option for those with nut allergies. (Or! A handful of stick-in-the-mud customer-service representatives have kept me from being able to find out much of anything about a company’s facilities. That happens a lot, actually.)

The products that have made this list are peanuts and peanut butters that probably won’t kill you…if you’re allergic to tree nuts and tree nuts alone, that is. And if you can’t eat peanuts (or if you’re in the mood for a change of pace), scroll down to the bottom of this guide for a section on other nut-free spreads.

(Looking for tree nuts free from cross contamination with other tree nuts?)

Continue reading

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America’s Best Nut Co.

Southern Homestyle peanuts from America's Best Nut Co

Tree nut–free peanuts are trouble. I’ve written before about how tough they are to find, so I won’t rehash—but suffice it to say that they aren’t easy to come by. In fact, America’s Best Nut Co. makes the only safe shelled peanuts I’ve managed to find in years (and years) of half-hearted searching.

Their website is pretty lean, and they have no email address, as far as I can tell—so I did the unthinkable: I called. The (very, very kind) woman I spoke with confirmed what I’d heard: that they don’t have any tree nuts in their facility, and that their peanuts should be entirely nut-free. Unfortunately, she also told me that their peanuts aren’t sold in any New York stores. Fortunately, though, they are sold online, so—well, I’m eating a handful as I type this. (Literally. One-handed blogging is a slow-going labor of love.)

Shipping was expensive, so in the interest of efficiency (and certainly not because I’m a pig), I ordered three tins: one lightly salted Southern Homestyle, one unsalted Southern Homestyle, and one sea-salted. All three were great, but I liked the lightly salted best, as they were a nice happy medium between the other two. (Duh.) The peanuts themselves taste great, and the salt complements their flavor nicely (rather than covering it up, as it tends to with the sea-salted variety). Plus, unlike the unsalted peanuts, these don’t grow boring after too many handfuls. They’re frighteningly addictive.

The unsalted did have their perks, though. First, they’re a classic—and second, they’re super greasy. These are some oily peanuts (though they aren’t unpleasantly so in the slightest). It’s a nice touch—in my eyes, at least—and it certainly sets these peanuts apart from those you’ll pull out of a shell.

In all, America’s Best Nut Co. is a lovely company that makes some damn good peanuts. My only gripes, really, are that they can’t be found in stores, and that they’re too expensive (for me) to order regularly.

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Peanut Butter & Co.

A jar of White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter

I spent last Friday on Roosevelt Island. Please don’t ask why; I really have no idea. Around the third hour, though, I ended up at Gristedes, the island’s only real supermarket. (There’s also a deli, a Duane Reade, and a natural market of sorts. For anything else, you have to travel.) None of this is relevant, of course—but Roosevelt Island is Twilight Zone–weird, so…I guess I wanted to mention where I was.

It was there, at that overpriced and poorly reviewed Gristedes, that I finally decided it was time to pick up a jar of this expensive-ass peanut butter.

I hated this stuff as a kid. I really did. I always thought it was gritty, bland, and generally unpleasant—though that didn’t quite stop me from trying every flavor I could find. I’m not sure whether it’s changed or I have, but…something‘s different, because I absolutely love this peanut butter.

A lot of tree nut–allergic people—especially those with a history of reacting to traces—express frustration with finding peanut butter made in a peanut-only facility. I usually eat Skippy (which, as far as I know, isn’t made in a peanut-only facility), but I know plenty of nut-allergic people for whom brands like Skippy aren’t an option, so I figured it was probably worth looking into some other companies.

One of the companies on my list was Peanut Butter & Co. Prior to my Roosevelt Island adventure, I’d sent them an email, and their reply was as follows:

Our peanut butter is manufactured in a facility that only processes peanuts. While many of our other products like jams, jellies, and peanut snacks may not contain tree nuts or seeds in the ingredient list, some are processed in facilities that also process tree nuts and seeds. Please check the label of the individual product you are inquiring about for more information.

Really, that was the answer I was looking for. But given how much I’d hated their peanut butter as a kid—and given that I’ve never seen a jar of it on sale for less than $5—it wasn’t as if I was ready to sprint to the supermarket and pick some up. It comes as no real surprise, then, that I had to be so hungry on such a strange island for this stuff to even begin to appeal to me.

Anyway…I bought some. I chose White Chocolate Wonderful, because white chocolate and I tend to get along pretty well. The jar cost $5.99, which made me sort of angry—but once I got my spoon (okay, finger) in there, all my anger dissolved. It wasn’t gritty or bland like I remembered; instead, it was smooth and flavorful—though not unpleasantly sweet, which I’d expected it to be.

Honestly, it’s really fucking good, and I feel a little bad for spending the last 10 years hating on this stuff. What’s done is done, though. I’ll guess I’ll have to right my wrong by overspending on Peanut Butter & Co.’s peanut butter till I’m sick of the stuff.

Find Peanut Butter & Co. everywhere: Gristedes, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Duane Reade, Food Emporium, Citerella…and a whole bunch of other places, too.

[Edit: After some further consideration, I’ve decided that Peanut Butter & Co.’s is probably my favorite all-purpose peanut butter. White Chocolate Wonderful, which tastes nothing like white chocolate, but rather which tastes like a standard sweetened peanut butter, is like an upgraded Skippy, and Dark Chocolate Dreams, which is ridiculously rich—like brownie batter, honestly—is perfect for finger-licking.]

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Skippy P.B. Bites: an astonishingly decent snack

Two packages of Skippy P.B. Bites, one pretzel and one peanut butter

Quick post, because a) this is unimportant, b) these aren’t guaranteed to be nut-free, and c) a bunch of you are probably allergic to peanuts anyway. But I’ve finally found these elusive P.B. Bites after looking just about everywhere for weeks, so you’re going to have to hear about them.

Allergen information first. P.B. Bites (obviously) contain peanuts, but as far as I can tell, they don’t contain nuts. The allergen information on Skippy’s product information page is as follows: “Milk ingredients present, Peanuts (groundnuts) ingredients present, Soy ingredients present, Wheat ingredients present, Gluten present.” I reached out to Skippy to make sure their products were free of all traces of tree nuts, but they never got back to me. Anyway, I know this isn’t much of a guarantee—but I’ve been eating Skippy’s peanut butter for my entire life, and I’ve never had any sort of allergic reaction.

[Edit: I ended up hearing back from Skippy a few days after publishing this post. I was told that tree nuts are present in the facility in which P.B. Bites are made, but that they aren’t processed on the same equipment, and that Skippy has a HACCP program in place to prevent cross-contamination. Their actual peanut butter is made in a peanut-only facility, though.]

Anyway, I apparently become extremely impressionable the second any sort of food shows up on my TV. I’m not even that into peanut butter, but for some reason, when I saw the ad for these, my pupils turned to spirals and I figured I just had to have them. I used Skippy’s product locator (well, it’s Hormel’s, but whatever), but none of the stores I went to had the stupid things, so I gave up and ordered some from Walmart. Of course, within a day of stopping my search, I spotted them—on a routine trip to Fairway. Go figure.

The anatomy of the P.B. bite is very simple—it’s just a little ball of either pretzel or peanut butter, covered in a layer of smooth peanut butter. Both varieties are fine, really, though the pretzel may be a bit better, due to the added salt and crunch factors. Honestly, I was expecting both varieties to be terrible (though that didn’t make my search any less urgent), but terrible they are not. In fact, they’re astonishingly decent.

That’s about all I have to say, really. I’m just a sucker for new (junk) food products—especially when I can eat them. And these just happen to be all right.

(I’m not even going to pretend I know where you can get your hands on some P.B. Bites of your very own; Skippy’s product locator was decidedly unhelpful—probably because these things are so new. Amazon has them for an absurd price of $12 per 6-ounce cup, and you can order them from Walmart for $3.13 per cup, though the shipping costs more than the P.B. Bites themselves. If you can find them, though—and if you like peanut butter—they’re worth a try. Good luck.)

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Hampton Farms Peanuts

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One thing that never, ever fails to confuse people is the fact that I’m not allergic to peanuts. Nearly every time I tell someone I’m allergic to tree nuts, I’ll end up getting an earful about how much it sucks that I’ll never be able to try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a Reese’s Cup or a Butterfinger. (Cue the explanation that no-one really cares about: “Well, you see, peanuts aren’t really nuts; they’re legumes…”)

Point is, I can eat peanuts.

Theoretically.

There’s a problem, though. Products that contain or may contain peanuts? Fine. But try finding actual peanuts that don’t come with a “may contain” warning for every tree nut under the sun. Planters, which are everywhere, won’t work—and before you get all excited (like me) and think you’ve finally found a solution: generic brand peanuts are probably cross-contaminated, too. Sorry.

After a whole lot of searching, though, I’ve finally found a brand that works, and (as you may have guessed from the title of this post) it’s Hampton Farms. There are no “may contain” warnings on their bags, but the absence of such warnings guarantees approximately nothing, so I just took that information as a lead. Fortunately, when I emailed Hampton Farms, I received the following reply:

Our in shell peanuts and jarred peanut butters are produced in peanut only facilities. Our shelled peanuts are processed in several locations, some of which handle both peanut and tree nut products, so there is the possibility of cross contamination.

So I guess I have a lot of shelling to do. Bummer, but whatever. At least I’ve found some tree nut–free peanuts, right?

They come in a few flavors: salted, unsalted, raw, Cajun, and hickory smoked. I’ve tried salted and unsalted and, well, they’re definitely peanuts. (I’m not a huge fan of peanuts that’ve been salted in-shell. They always taste like the sea to me—perhaps because they’ve been salted via a salt water solution. But the unsalted peanuts are A-OK.)

I buy them at Fairway, C-Town, or Stop & Shop, but they’re all over, really, and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them. For whatever reason, they’re usually in the produce section. Good luck.

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