Photo: Stacey Potter
Does anyone else long for the days when rat droppings were the scariest thing about peanut butter? Anyone? Show of hands?
Let’s see. The problems with peanut butter now include:
- Really scary chemicals, including neurotoxins (as if we need something else getting on our nerves).
- Deadly salmonella outbreaks.
- The mysterious rise of very serious peanut allergies.
- A peanut butter aisle so big that it makes you want to curl into a ball and rock back and forth — right there in the store — from stimulation overload. (Omega-3 peanut butter … really?)
- Rat feces, still.
- The Frankenut-butter threat. Although there are no genetically modified peanuts on the market right now, according to the National Peanut Board website, money is being poured into genomic research. (Note to peanut growers: Consider inserting the genes of a Labradoodle. As far as I can tell, no one is allergic to them.) But seriously, on the upside genetically modified peanuts could save lives.
OK, peanut allergies aside, some of the contemporary problems with peanut butter can be avoided by buying organic peanut butter. Of course, this begs some questions: Do any of these organic spreads taste good? And do you have to break the bank for a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich?
And while we’re at it, is the “Skippy Factor” real? A while back, when I wrote about turkey, I spoke with Cooks Illustrated senior editor Lisa McManus. She described the Skippy Factor this way: Tasters often favor foods that are comfortingly familiar, such as Skippy peanut butter, over something higher quality. (This also explains why Cooks, which I read regularly, is so shockingly successful. For these food science geeks, taste trumps all. They don’t really give a rip about health-consciousness or greenness or food trends.)
So, back to the point: Do organic peanut butters taste good? My brave panel of tasters aimed to find out, by sampling six organic creamy peanut butters that were readily available at my local grocery stores.
Our results, from worst to best: