Our last day of Lad and Lassie kindergarten in Mobile Alabama, we had a theme party. The theme was an airline flight. This was back when men wore suits, ladies wore hats and dresses, and kids wore their Sunday best to fly.
Our “flight” had attendants bearing 1970s party refreshments like popcorn balls and cupcakes. One genius mom had made up a stack of fancy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut into neat triangles with the crusts removed. But the best part was the jelly. These sandwiches were made with apple jelly. The warm, mellow apple flavor is the perfect, and I mean perfect, foil to creamy, smoky peanut butter.
From that day forward, I was a convert.
I always pick up new and interesting flavor of jams, jellies, and preserves whenever I find them. The store Home Goods is a terrific resource. They have tons of unusual types, and at outlet prices.
All that jelly used to just go on toast and biscuits. Then I found Fogwood Farm’s Balsamic grape hull jam. It’s spicy, sweet, and delicious on a sandwich.
Since that day I eat a couple nut butter/jelly sandwiches a week. But I mix it up constantly, so much so that the only versions I have more than once every month or so are my faves that I keep on repeat.
For a great PB&J sammich, there are a few things I strongly recommend.
Bread: Fresh and soft, but robust. Most grocery stores have a multi-grain sandwich loaf that is Wonder Bread-soft with a long shelf life.
Nut butter: The very best peanut butter is Reese’s. It’s creamy, delicious, and 400 zillion peanut butter cups can’t be wrong.
Big Spoon has an amazing line-up, I love the pecan peanut. But, they’re gourmet nut butters, which mean they’re pricey. For me, they’re special occasion sandwiches.
Simons Says flavored nut butters (sold in gourmet shops and local farmers markets). As smooth as James Bond on a slip-&-slide. They grind their butters for hours, then flavor them. My favorite is the hazelnut orange, which remind me, in the very best possible way, of Pillsbury orange rolls.
Sun butter: Made from sunflower seeds. It’s salty, sweet, unctuous, and brings an unexpected note to a sandwich. Most supermarkets sell a jar for up to eleven dollars, but Trader Joes comes to the rescue again for $4.89 apiece. Store it out of fridge upside down so when you open it, it’s easier to spread after just a quick stir.
Jams, jellies, and preserves: Go nuts here; homemade, old school grape, something cheap, or some type of gourmet concoction. I’ve no desire to judge another human’s PB&J choices. I frequently eat root beer jelly (What?!?). So, good; spicy, sweet, and holds up to all other flavors in the sandwich.
Root Beer Jelly
½ bottle or can of your favorite root beer
1-18 ounce jar of apple jelly
1 teaspoon root beer concentrate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
Put the root beer in a heavy pot and cook on a boil until it’s thickened to a syrupy consistency. Add jelly and cook until it’s smooth and thickened slightly (it will get thicker as it cools). Stir in concentrate, vanilla, and salt. Take off heat and let sit until it’s cool enough to pour into a jar. Keep refrigerated.
This jelly makes an awesome ham glaze, with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Chinese five-spice powder.
A nut butter and jelly sandwich is childhood comfort food. But, add some thought and a little imagination and it becomes something else—fancy finger food for glamorous old school (old school, get it?) airplane travel.
Thanks for your time.
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