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The Perfect PB&J | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Perfect PB&J

As a side note to this week’s Big Question, several of us have weighed in on what constitutes the best peanut butter. Some will touch only Jif. Others want nothing but ground peanuts. One commented on the correct form of peanut butter with homemade jelly in making that culinary delight known as the PB&J, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

In recent weeks, I have rediscovered this childhood staple. A couple weeks ago I was contemplating what to have for lunch when a little voice in my head reminded me I had all the makings of a PB&J on hand. For no particular reason I can think of, I hadn’t had one in several years and it suddenly sounded so good I nearly ran to the kitchen to create one.

Since that day, I’ve had at least half a dozen PB&J sandwiches. I do that, sometimes. I get really into one food and eat it quite a bit for several weeks. Then it drops off my radar and I don’t eat it at all for a while.

Anyway, I have found that for me this is what constitutes the perfect PB&J:

– I want chewy bread with flavor of its own. Whole wheat or something involving nuts is a plus. Sourdough will definitely do in a pinch. Rye, however, is not good for the purpose no matter how much I like it in a meat-based sandwich.

– Crusts are good.

– Peanut butter is ground peanuts with a little salt. That is all.

– I prefer jam or preserves over jelly because I like the texture better. If I have apricot preserves on hand, that’s best. Strawberry or raspberry is also good. I have no truck with grape jelly.

– PB&J tastes better when cut into triangles.

Of course, I know that several of you are by now utterly horrified at my creation. So I’m curious, what is your perfect PB&J? I’d love to hear how it differs from mine.

40 Responses to “The Perfect PB&J”

  1. Veronica August 23, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    It’s true and for no obvious reason. PB&J is better cut into triangles.
    .

  2. chachaheels August 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    I think mine would differ from yours in that I’d want the bread toasted; and I’d use Nutella instead of jam or jelly.

  3. Amber August 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    Cheap white bread (oddly, the only conditions under which I prefer cheap white bread…I tend to be a flavorful and chewy with nuts and grains in girl myself), chunky peanut butter that is just ground peanuts and salt, raspberry preserves or jam with all the seeds in still. Slightly more peanut butter than jam, to avoid jam drips.

  4. class-factotum August 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    I’m not a PBJ fan, but I loves my PB on apple slices or a banana. My fiance had to rip my Conagra honey-roast PB out of my hands last year (or the year before?) to return it to the grocery store when some people got sick from eating it. As I had already eaten over half the jar, I don’t think there was a problem with mine. Oh, it was a happy, happy day when Conagra started making that flavor again!

    I have also had chocolate PB and cinnamon-raisin PB. Both are DIVINE.

    And Nutella? Food of the gods. I don’t even keep it in the house because I am powerless against its siren call.

  5. Sarah August 23, 2008 at 2:37 pm #

    I agree on the whole wheat call. I like my PB&J sweet, though, which means typical peanut butter, rather than the all-natural variety. Either creamy or crunchy will do! As for jam, either raspberry or blueberry preserves. But, to counteract all the sweetness, some regular salted potato chips on the side are a must!

  6. Twistie August 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    You know, I never have tried a PB&Nutella sandwich. Sounds delish! Note to self: get some Nutella in and try.

  7. Twistie August 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm #

    Oh, and Sarah, I will definitely be trying the blueberry preserves variation, too. I hadn’t ever thought to do that, but I adore blueberries.

  8. AmazonPrincess August 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    Honey-roasted flavor peanut butter, blackberry preserves, on buttermilk bread with a nice glass of milk.

    Or just PB & honey. Those are yummy too.

    Now I’m craving pb&j. Dagnabbit *off to kitchen*

    :-)

  9. jenn August 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    Very, very fresh extra-nutty multigrain bread, Jif low-fat crunchy PB, and Fluff. Coconut may be substituted for Fluff in a pinch. Go ahead, call me a heathen!

  10. class-factotum August 23, 2008 at 4:39 pm #

    Omigosh, Fluff! I haven’t thought of that in years! It was one of the treats I took with me to London to visit a friend. Most of the things I took for her boys turned out to be foods you can now get in England, but she said they had never had Fluff and would be crazy for it. I used to eat that straight out of the jar, too, just like Nutella, which is why I don’t buy it now. If I could eat just a spoonful and stop, that would be fine, but once I start, the entire jar must be consumed.

  11. class-factotum August 23, 2008 at 4:48 pm #

    Look at all these fabulous PB flavors — chocolate, mocha, cinnamon-raisin, raspberry white chocolate:

    http://www.ilovepeanutbutter.com/items_4__page0.html

    http://www.pbloco.com/Browse.asp

  12. J.P. Vonderhaar August 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    Seeded rye bread + Trader Joe’s unsalted crunchy peanut butter + blackberry jam with seeds= OM NOM NOM.

    You’ll be picking crap out of your teeth all day, but it’s totally worth it.

  13. La Petite Acadienne August 23, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    Whole-wheat bread, but it has to be soft.
    Smooth peanut butter — the sugary kind.
    Homemade strawberry jam, or in a pinch, Kraft Pure strawberry jam (with the nice big chunks of strawberries in it.)
    Cut diagonally, with chips on the side, and a big glass of 1% milk.

    I’ve always thought that the whole concept of jelly on sandwiches was a bit odd. And I, like you, have absolutely no truck with grape jelly. The only good grape products are grapes. And wine. That’s it.

  14. Kimiks August 23, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    Ok- There are several perfect PB sandwiches- depending on my mood-

    Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Skippy Crunchy PB and Cherry Jam — YUMMY

    Multi Grain Bread, Skippy Creamy PB, and wild flower Honey- WOW

    White Bread, Skippy Crunchy PB and Marshmellow fluff- Goodness Me

    But the ultimate, almost better than sex with my husband PB sandwich-

    Multi Grain Bread, equal parts Nutella and Skippy Creamy PB, Grilled, like a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. OMG YES!!

    And Class- I am with you- Nutella cannot enter my house, otherwise I will sit with first a spoon, then a spatula and finally my fingers eating the whole Jar in one sitting- not a pretty sight . I have it twice a year- One time is our church retreat where I am restrained from hogging the whole jar, and I need to share it with my friend who brings it. The second time is at the annual girls weekend in a cabin by a lake- try Smores made with Nutella- YUMMY!!!
    As for Grapes, they should only be eaten as is, dried, or in the way God intended them to be consumed- WINE- never jelly.

  15. Jezzie August 23, 2008 at 10:02 pm #

    This is fun! Grape JAM is good…I loved that Goober stuff – the PB and J swirled together in the jar – when I was a kid. Love Skippy creamy the best, w/raspberry or strawberry preserves on my grannie’s (rest her beautiful soul) homemade white bread. She used to make it w/butter on the bread under the PB and orange marmalade – the Smucker’s sweet kind. Also love PB and honey, and PB and lettuce – crunchy romaine, not iceberg or baby greens – my mother’s oddity. Saltine or Ritz PB and J sandwiches are good, too.

  16. Jennie August 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm #

    Grape jelly is alcohol abuse. Wasting this fruit on jelly is cruel and should be criminal. ‘Nuff said on that subject. I now must go to the grocer and buy fresh baked honey wheat bread, one of the big three peanut butters (Jif, Skippy, or Peter Pan) and some preserves of the strawberry, raspberry, and/or blueberry type. Also some fresh clover honey. At least meal prep is going to be a snap for the next 2 or 3 weeks.

  17. Cat August 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm #

    I’m with the cheap white bread contingent, and I also like it only for this purpose. Two slices of soft, cheap white bread. A thin-ish layer of Reese’s peanut butter on each slice. A thin-ish layer of strawberry jam in the middle (I don’t like the jam to be running out all over the place). Pringles on the side. I eat this regularly for lunch. It’s easy to pack and take to work with me, and it is delicious.

  18. Ripley August 24, 2008 at 12:10 am #

    My favorite PB&J must have soft white bread, Jif peanut butter, and either grape or strawberry jam. I prefer a nice cold glass of milk to drink, and plain potato chips on the side are a bonus.

  19. Fabrisse August 24, 2008 at 12:12 am #

    I prefer wheat to white bread, but I prefer one that is fairly simple. No seeds, for instance.

    The peanut butter should be chunky and organic, although smooth will do in a pinch.

    I prefer open faced and uncut as too much bread causes “sticks to the roof of the mouth” issues.

    I like orange marmalade, especially in the winter time or plum jams of any sort. In all cases, I like the “all fruit” type best. Having said that, my breakfast this morning was an open face pb & j with pineapple-apricot preserves. It’s another bright flavor, like the marmalade.

    In a pinch, I’ll use honey. No bananas. No Fluff.

    I also like cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, but I put a top on those.

  20. Kathy August 24, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    Yet another member of the white bread crew here. Combine with creamy peanut butter on each side, carefully cradling strawberry-rhubarb jam (or my grandmother’s strawberry-champagne jam – Divine), cut diagonally and then frozen.

    I know the freezing part is totally random, but after 3-5 minutes its the ~perfect~ summer food.

  21. JaneC August 24, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    The apex of perfection for me is Oroweat cinnamon raisin bread, toasted and still warm, with Skippy creamy peanut butter and my mom’s homemade strawberry-plum jam.

    Unfortunately, that is a rare treat because all that sugar pretty much sends me into orbit. The current reality is usually untoasted wheat bread of some kind, unsweetened peanut butter, and some kind of jam (anything but grape, which I didn’t even like as a child) sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar. I know, I know–it’s better for me. But I miss the PB&J of my childhood. I pack my own lunches, and PB&J is my go-to meal for days when I forgot to plan something spiffier or there were no leftovers from dinner.

  22. Twistie August 24, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    I love all the ideas in this thread! There are definitely several I intend to try. I’d never thought of cinnamon bread, but that sounds awesome!

    Oh, and count me among the no Fluff crowd. I’ve never liked marshmallows.

    But I may have to try the freezing for a couple minutes on a hot day. That might just be brilliant.

  23. class-factotum August 24, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    Inspired by all this wonderful food (and shocked by the $7/jar price of the store-bought stuff), I just made my own chocolate peanut butter.

    It is delish.

    http://homecooking.about.com/od/nutrecipes/r/blmisc19.htm

  24. Lyrehca August 24, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    I love a deconstructed PB&J:

    1/2 cup oatmeal
    1/2 cup water
    dollop of peanut butter (I like any natural brand with the extra oil poured off, creamy)
    1/2 cup of raspberries, blueberries or sliced grapes

    Mix oatmeal, water and fruit together, then microwave for a minute. Stir in the peanut butter. I add a packet of Splenda and a glass of skim milk. It is the perfect breakfast and it tastes like candy.

    So. Awesome.

  25. JR August 25, 2008 at 8:03 am #

    Creamy pb spread thinly on each slice of oatmeal bread with blackberry jam also spread thinly on each slice. Best with milk.

    I also like nutella + blackberry jam.

    Pb + banana sandwich is something I will also eat all the time. I like this better with juice though.

  26. Marvel August 25, 2008 at 9:30 am #

    Wheat bread, preferably whole grain with some crunch, JIF crunchy peanut butter, apple jelly, with corn chips (Fritos ideally) and milk on the side. If crunchy peanut butter unavailable, Fritos are layered into the sandwich itself. Vestiges of preschool comfort food, which is why it makes an ideal work lunch.

    Also a fan of the peanut butter and honey variation, especially when using whole wheat crackers as a base.

  27. Karen August 25, 2008 at 9:32 am #

    I am rabidly opposed to nuts other than peanuts in food. I don’t like most nuts at all, but can eat a few of them by themselves. Unexpectedly crunching down upon them in otherwise delicious brownies makes me want to hurl said brownies through the window.

    As a result my perfect PB&J is two slices of whole wheat (but completely crunch-free) bread slathered with creamy natural peanut butter and jam. Sugary strawberry jam can be a pleasant counterpoint to natural peanut butter, but the absolute best is Mom’s homemade tomato preserves. Sounds nasty, I know, but a sufficient quantity of sugar (plus simmering with a cinnamon stick) turns tomatoes into a fantastic jam.

    The magic of this PB&J is that it simultaneously takes me straight back to childhood (when tomato preserves were a lunchtime staple) and makes me feel very grown up (eating natural peanut butter and such an unusual jam).

    I eat this while rereading a beloved book and it’s summer vacation on a plate.

  28. Never teh Bride August 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

    Hmmm…it has to be potato bread, the really soft but substantial kind, with raspberry jam with lots of seeds, and peanut butter that has plenty of nutty chunks in it. I’d take strawberry jam or raspberry-peach, too, but I never liked the combo of blueberry preserves and PB. I second the commenters who brought up Nutella or Fluff, because both of those things ROCK.

  29. Elaine August 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    Whole wheat bread, toasted. Crunchy or smooth pb, no preference, but it needs to be salted. I prefer jam over jelly, but I LOVE mint jelly on a pbj. I know, crazy. Strawberry is what I keep in the fridge. But I also keep nutella and honey, for when I get ambitious and want to mix things up. :)

  30. littlesouthernmama August 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm #

    mmmm…what a veritable smorgasbord of flavors…

    some beautiful sprouted grain bread toasted with nutella and crunchy pb with a dark, dark, dark cup of community coffee or maybe a deep, dark stout beer

    a lovely oat bread with smooth pb, raw honey and bananas grilled like grilled cheese with iced tea…unsweetened or a beautiful white grape honey mead or a pale ale…

    cheap honey wheat bread with smooth pb any old store bought brand, fruit preserves…strawberry, mango, blueberry….and a giant glass of WHOLE milk….

    The fluff is good, but I like it on graham crackers with pb…heat it in the micro for a few seconds…sheer heaven. I hate marshmallows, but fluff is different…well, i actually also like stale peeps too!

  31. katherine August 27, 2008 at 7:15 am #

    My favorite is the cheesy grocery store sliced Italian Bread with seasame on the crust, crunchy peanut butter (the sort of, half separated natural kind is the best), a light layer of butter/margarine under the penutbutter, and apricot preserves.

    My second favorate is a smooth penutbutter with a layer of honey. It gets into the nooks and crannies of the bread and makes a lovely sweet crust that’s just to die for.l

  32. emmme August 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    THE PERFECT PB&J SANDWICH

    I created this recipe when I was 6, and it never fails to get wows from assorted boyfriends I want to impress without working hard:

    2 slices whole wheat very hearty bread, toasted
    handful crushed corn flakes
    dash nutmeg
    1/2 cup peanut butter smooth (any variety)
    1/4 cup grape jelly
    Stir the pb & j together until uniform purpley-grey color (it’s not for looking at), then add a handful crushed corn flakes and dash of nutmeg. Spread on both slices and stack; best with glass of milk. nirvana.

    This is also fantastic (and much prettier) with honey instead of jelly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  33. CordyQ August 27, 2008 at 7:37 pm #

    Yep the perfect PB&J has GOT to start with the cheapest softest squishiest white bread possible, then a nice layer of Jif (creamy or chunky depending on my mood) on one piece of bread, then put either warmed up Honey , or Raspberry Jam which has got to have seeds on the other piece of bread and put together.

    This is the important part though .. you make two of these.. and stack them one on the other on a plate.. then you take another plate and put that on top and SMOOOOOOSH them down so they are teensy tiny

    And Voila.. the perfect sandwich!!!!

  34. HillaryGayle August 31, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    I had to jump in on this one. My PB&J is:

    -Whole Foods fresh ground peanut butter, honey-roasted variety
    -Farmer’s market strawberry or raspberry jam
    -Sourdough or honey wheat bread

    And here’s something everyone might enjoy, if no one’s linked it up to this point: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/peanut-butter-and-jelly-bars-recipe/index.html

    I made those for a party and 5 different people proclaimed their undying love for me.

  35. Peaches August 31, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    I had some friends from Scotland stay with me for two weeks (one week too long) and they craved and ate a pb&j from Whole Foods for lunch EVERY day.
    It was the fresh roasted peanut butter, a variety of jams and a nutty/grainy bread.

    I like smooth Jiff on a totally unhealthy soft white bread with local strawberry jam. Even better is old peaches smooshed on like jam. Yum.

  36. Scarlet September 2, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    Honey Wheat Bread
    Any kind of PB (creamy or crunchy)
    Apple or Grape Jelly

    The PB to J ratio must be 2:1

    My husband can’t seem to ever get the ratio correct. I think it’s just because he wants me to make them instead of himself!

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