Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut.

So last Sunday I went on an expedition. I was determined to find the perfect peanut oil. I was determined to buy like a gallon of it to keep in my pantry. I usually only buy oil a couple times a year. We use a little bit at a time, but just in case you need to use a half a cup for a recipe or you want to fry, I like to have a big jug on hand.

Apparently those days are over.

Early Sunday morning I loaded up Thing 1 and drove to Fairway. I left Thing 2 and DH (who has been very sick recently) at home to rest.

For those of you who don't live in Manhattan, Fairway is a locally owned grocery store chain that has recently gone from three stores to I think 7 and maybe more. They have prepared foods, all the conventional varieties and a great selection of organics. Their organics range from everything from fruits and veggies, canned goods, frozen goods, brand name prepared foods to their own store brand of beef, free range eggs and even grass fed organic milk from a dairy farm in PA (The most local source of dairy I have EVER been able to find outside of the farmer's market and even that is 2 states away). They also produce/ import their own store brand varieties of everything from oiled packed sun dried tomatoes to whole bean coffees to fresh baked baguettes. I tend to buy their store brand items because they are slightly less expensive, high quality and they turn through them really quickly so they are fresher.

Fairway has organic olive oil bottled under their store brand label that is imported from Italy. One liter costs $11.99. The conventional variety costs $8.99. That is an increase in price of 33%, but I feel good about it and I don't burn though it all that quickly. Unfortunately they don't import any other oils under their store brand, so I was forced to look at national names.

I was not surprised to find that there was row after row of 'Vegetable Oil' and a long row of 'Canola Oil'. Down on the very bottom shelf I found one enormous gallon jug of peanut oil. Success! At least I thought. This peanut oil was a very inexpensive brand that listed nothing about how the oil was produced. I though for sure they used a hexane solvent to get at those nuts. I put it back.

The only other company even offering peanut oil was Planters. I have always liked that little peanut guy with the top hat and the monocle. I have a positive impression of the Planters company (apparently a division of Kraft Foods and even Nabisco-I am pretty sure all industrial food companies are owned by just one big conglomerate, but I haven't found the smoking gun yet. Just kidding, I don't want to get sued for libel!) But I figured if there was anyone offering pressed peanut oil, it would be from the company that produces nuts specifically.

On a side note I like companies that only do one thing. I like it when a clothing company sticks only to doing clothes but maybe does different brands. I like furniture companies that resist the temptation to make sheets and vases, you know? So I appreciate that the Planters product line sticks pretty close to nuts and their brethren.

The only problem with this oil? The bottle didn't say whether or not it was expeller pressed or solvent extracted. That was a red flag. Usually when a food product has the attribute that is the prize of the moment, it will be visible. Maybe they won't post it on the front, but other expeller pressed items I have come across have pretty sizable type on the back of the product calling out why I should pay more money for their product. I bought the small bottle anyway thinking the best of the company.

Next I did exactly what I would encourage anyone to do. I went to their website to do some research. Not only did I not find out anything about the method of extraction, they didn't even have peanut oil listed as a product!! They must not make a lot of peanut oil. So I moved onto phase 2. I emailed the company to ask them how they obtained the oil.

I received a response the next day that read as follows: "...Kraft Foods purchases oil used in our products from well established food oil manufacturers that use refining processes to clean and otherwise prepare the oil for food use as required by FDA regulation and good manufacturing processes." Ummm....I could have guessed all that.

I wrote them back and used more specific language. They actually wrote me back same day, and spilled it. They pressed first and used solvents on the remainder. Sigh. It stinks that I bought the bottle before I checked into it. However, I am really pleased that they did in fact come clean with me about what kind of process they used. I think half the issue I find with processed food is the lengths at which the food companies go to try and hide how they are doing business.

On a brighter note, a dear girlfriend of mine was at Whole Foods the other day and called me to say that they had organic, unrefined, expeller pressed peanut oil there. Hopefully it will not cost $45 a bottle once I find the time to get there. Perhaps this is a worthy project for the upcoming weekend.

1 comment:

  1. I've been experimenting with coconut oil, especially in baking. Spectrum has a variety that is expeller pressed and organic. It is a great sub for shortening in biscuits, and good for hair as well!