Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is like going home. And, much like going home, it can be a little boring. Especially as a grown ass adult. It’s not like the occasional visit is particularly unpleasant— it’s familiar and nostalgic and even comforting— it’s just that you’re older and your tastes have evolved. Thanks to Netflix and your 21st birthday, you’re no longer endlessly entertained by midnight runs to the Super Wal, browsing for $5.00 DVDs and sneaking into the townie bar.
For peanut butter and jelly, your evolution of taste is something just as physiological as it is mental. After years of trying exciting foods, and— let’s be honest— some tastebud dulling liquor and cigarettes—, Wonderbread and Welch’s just won’t cut it. You need stronger, more sophisticated flavors to pique your interests.
But unlike your semi-annual trek back to whatever suburban hole in the ground you call home, PB&J can become something worthy of your daily routine by simply bringing the ingredients up to your new standards.
First? Find a good bread.
We don’t make habit of judging people’s food choices— we don’t know you or your budget— but we will be bold in saying: Wonderbread is not food. It is air suspended in a synthetic wheat mesh. Ditch the squishy white shit and swap it for something with a little chutzpah. White or Wheat sandwich loaf from a real bakery that makes things from ingredients (not additives) can do amazing things, even if it’s the only upgrade you can make this payday. If you feel fancy, try something with extra grains or go full-on porno with a Banana bread or Brioche.
Next: think beyond the Peanut.
Commercially made Peanut Butter has its place in our kitchens, but it’s rarely in our sandwiches. While we need the consistent fat ratio in our baking, it makes a PB&J anemic, sticky, and bland. Roasting and blending your own spreads is often cheaper, always tastier, and only adds a few minutes to your kitchen duty once a month. We’ve added a couple of our most favorite recipes below. Our latest go-to is Pistachio butter, pictured here. It’s a kind of creepy green but makes everything buttery and rich, making a perfect backdrop for the most important part of the sandwich:
The cloying, syrupy jams of your youth are a shitty substitute for the real thing. They don’t taste like strawberries or grapes, they taste like JollyRanchers. A good jam should taste like fruit condensed, because that is literally what it is. It should be intense and complicated and, while definitely sweet, the sugar should serve more as a background, balancing and enhancing the nuances of each fruit.
Our favorite jams comes from our friend Dafna at INNA jam. Rachel was lucky enough to meet her at Eat Retreat 2012, where she introduced us to shrub and facilitated late-night consumption of baguette with too much butter (if there were such a thing) and her incredible preserves. Saying that we’ve been hooked ever since is an understatement. Our favorites include the Albion Strawberry (a perfect, classic strawberry jam), Lorna Apricot (sunny, warm, and amazing on a cheese plate), and, most of all, Tayberry. We didn’t know that tayberries were a thing but they most decidedly are. While technically a hybrid between rasp- and blackberries, they taste like every single berry, ever, smashed together and go perfectly with a thick spread of homemade almond butter.
Homemade Nut Butter
1lb Nuts of your choosing, out of their shell. Pistachios and Almonds are particularly nice, Cashews and Pecans make a close second, Peanuts are still pretty dang good too.
¼ tsp Salt
1-4 tbsp neutral tasting Oil, think Canola, not Olive.
Jar with tight fitting lid, for storage
Slowly roast your Nuts in the oven (or buy them that way). Allow to cool slightly and transfer to your Food Processor with the Salt. Pulse a few times until things start breaking up and start processing. Stream in a few tablespoons of Oil, until things form a rough pasty blob. Oilier nuts like Cashews and Peanuts will need less oil than a drier nut, like Almonds or Pecans.
Process the Nuts until they make a smooth paste paste. Transfer to a jar, seal it tight, and keep it in the fridge for up to a month.
To this day there is nothing better then a pb&j sandwich with an ice cold glass of milk…