There are many stories as to the origin of peanut butter. In the 15th century, Africans ground peanuts into stews. Creamy Chinese peanut sauces are centuries old. “Peanut porridge” kept many Civil War soldiers alive.

These early uses of peanuts bore little resemblance to the peanut butter we enjoy today. In 1890, a St. Louis doctor asked George A. Bayle, Jr., to owner of a food company, to make a ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for his patients with poor teeth who could not chew meat.

The doctor had experimented with peanuts and ground them into the paste with his hand-cranked meat grinder. Mr. Bayle took the recipe, mechanized the process and began selling his peanut butter out of barrels for 6¢ per pound.

About the same time, the Kellogg brothers got involved with peanuts in Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was making a peanut butter product as a vegetarian source of protein for his patients. His brother, W.K. Kellogg, was the business manager of their sanitarium. Being the entrepreneur, he opened a nut company and supplied foods like peanut butter to local grocery stores.

The Kellogg’s got a patent for their “pasty adhesive substance” which they called nut butter. However, their nutty paste was not as tasty as the peanut butter we enjoy today because they steamed instead of roasting the peanuts before grinding. They turned their attention to cereals and those products are still popular today.

Peanut butter was introduced to the world in 1904 by C.H. Sumner at the St. Louis Universal Exposition. He sold $705.11 of the treat at his world’s fair concession stand and thus peanut butter was on its way to becoming an American favorite.

In 1922 Joseph L. Rosefield began selling a number of brands of peanut butter that were churned like butter. They were smoother than the gritty peanut butters and he received the first patent for a shelf-stable peanut butter, which could stay fresh for up to a year because the oil in the churned product didn’t separate from the peanut butter.

Another company used Rosefield’s process to produce Pond peanut butter which was later renamed Peter Pan. Rosefield felt his process was copied and had a dispute with Swift & Company and began producing his peanut butter under the Skippy label. He also created the first crunchy peanut butter in 1924 by adding chopped peanuts to creamy peanut butter at the end of the manufacturing process.

Today Proctor & Gamble operate the world’s largest peanut butter factory. They bought out Big Top Peanut Butter and introduced Jif in 1958. They churn out 250,000 jars of peanut butter a day.

Regardless of the brand, everyone seems to have a favorite; the uses of peanut butter are many. Candies, pies, desserts, sauces and much more are made everyday from America’s favorite peanut product.

Carolyn’s Peanut

Butter Fudge

1 bag white chocolate chips

1 (12 oz.) jar peanut butter

1 can Eagle Brand milk

Melt white chocolate chips and peanut butter in microwave safe dish in microwave for 3 minutes. Stir after each minute. Add 1 can Eagle Brand milk and stir well. Pour into dish and cut into squares when cooled.

Peanut Butter Balls

3 sticks whipped margarine (or 2 sticks regular margarine)

1 box powdered sugar

1 (12 oz.) jar peanut butter

1/2 block paraffin (2 oz.)

1 bag chocolate chips

Whip margarine, sugar and peanut butter together until smooth. Shape into marble-size balls (larger if desired). Chill one hour or more in refrigerator.

Melt paraffin and chocolate chips in microwave or in top of double boiler. Use toothpicks to dip balls in chocolate. Place on waxed paper to dry.

— Judy O’Daniel’s “Country Gourmet” column appears in the Times-Journal week day editions.

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