The recipe for Cream-Nut peanut butter from Koeze (rhymes with Susie) in Grand Rapids, Michigan hasn’t changed since Albertus Koeze started making it in 1925. The equipment is old, too, from the middle of the last century. Even a lot of the staff have been there for decades. As Martin Andree, vice-president of Koeze puts it, “We’re not new. We’re not improved. We’re making the same product we’ve made all along.”
Why is Koeze’s peanut butter so good? Here are four reasons.
Koeze peanut butter starts with better peanuts.
There are four basic kinds of peanuts: runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. Ninety-nine percent of commercial peanut butter is made with low quality varieties of runner peanuts. They’re a high yielding crop, which means they’re inexpensive, the primary concern of most commercial peanut butter makers. However, they don’t taste all that great.
At Koeze, they’ve been using a high grade of Virginia peanuts since day one. They’re large, very flavorful, and typically rather expensive so they don’t end up in peanut butter too often. Instead most Virginia peanuts are roasted and sold for snacking (like our Virginia Diner Peanuts).
They add salt, but nothing else.
To mask the lackluster flavor of the poor quality peanut, most peanut butter makers add a bunch of sugar. They also usually whip in hydrogenated vegetable oils to keep the peanut oil from separating from the peanut butter. In addition to adding trans fats they can give the peanut butter a gummy texture.
At Koeze, the only ingredient other than peanuts is a pinch of sea salt. That means when you taste it you’re tasting the rich, slow roasted peanut flavor, not a bunch of sugar or binders.
Koeze takes time to smell the roasting nuts.
The industry standard these days is to use very hot ovens and conveyor belts to quickly roast enormous batches of peanuts. While faster production is less expensive, the savings come at the expense of flavor. That fast, hot conveyor belt roasting doesn’t give the peanuts much of a chance to develop color – or flavor. A lot of commercial peanut butters add molasses (more sugar!) to darken the color and mask the product’s shortcomings.
Koeze roasts their peanuts in an old coffee roaster from the 1940s. Inside the roaster, 300-pound batches of peanuts are turned slowly over a flame, roasting gently until they reach a rich golden-brown color. That’s caramelization—the same thing that makes a crusty end of bread or a seared steak so delicious. It imparts a sweet, roasty flavor to the nuts. It also makes the production space smell incredible, like fresh peanut butter cookies that have just come out of the oven.
They taste every single batch.
In spite of years of experience making peanut butter, the workers at Koeze still taste every single batch. They’re checking to make sure it has the rich, roasted peanut flavor and velvety—but still slightly chunky, with small bits of peanuts intentionally left in even in the creamy peanut butter—texture. They make peanut butter frequently enough that it’s usually not more than a few weeks old before it’s shipped out.
Since Koeze doesn’t have those oils added, it may separate over time. Store it in the fridge to reduce that separation anxiety, and as a bonus, seeing it every time you open the fridge will help you remember you’re never more than a few minutes away from the best PB&J you can imagine.