Readers, your PB&J suggestions are a delight

Peanut butter, apricot, curry powder, cayenne
Peanut butter, apricot, curry powder, cayenne, stellar
Photo: Dennis Lee

A few weeks ago in our Last Call column, we asked you what your favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich combinations were. And honestly, I was surprised at the sheer volume of answers we received, putting my wheat bread/Skippy Natural/store-brand grape jelly combo to complete shame. Some of you suggested tortillas, alternative nut butters, fruit, all sorts of jams and jellies, and even different cooking styles.

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While I don’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches super often, your answers reminded me that a good old PB&J can be a really great thing, not only when you’re in a hurry, but when you’re in the mood for comfort food that’s ready to go in under a minute flat. While I couldn’t make everyone’s variations (there were around 75 responses and I am only one man), I did find some interesting preferences that many of us share.

loaf of whole wheat bread
Brownberry bread
Photo: Dennis Lee

There are a lot of you out there who prefer whole wheat bread, specifically Oroweat brand. It turns out that Oroweat, Brownberry, and Arnold are all owned by the same company, Bimbo Bakeries. What you pick is an indication of where you live: Oroweat is on the West Coast, Brownberry in the Midwest, and Arnold on the East coast. The packaging all looks the same, just with a different name on each loaf.

Illustration for article titled Readers, your PB&J suggestions are a delight
Photo: Boston Globe / Contributor (Getty Images)

I also saw multiple mentions of Teddie brand peanut butter. First of all, I think it’s adorable that so many of you like a peanut butter with a teddy bear lounging around on the label, and second of all, I’ve never seen this bear in my entire life. I put two and two together and it looks like Teddie only lives on the East Coast. I’ll be sure to give him a squeeze when I’m out traveling someday. In the meantime I’ll stick to Skippy, which is really lacking in the mascot department.

Uncrustable
Baby’s first Uncrustables
Photo: Dennis Lee
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Let’s start with a softball, and that’s Smucker’s Uncrustables, with a very specific instruction. I’d never had one of these things until now, so I was particularly curious about this comment from user AdamVIP:

I have also discovered that if you just leave out uncrustables for like 5 minutes you can defrost the bread while the PB stays semi frozen and with kind of snap. Its pretty rad.

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Our editor, Marnie Shure, confirms the tactic and swore by it on Slack: “IT’S SO GOOD. Used to do that in college all the time.”

I told my fiancée about this suggestion, and she said, “They used to give those us in school while they were still frozen. I still remember being able to scrape the bread off with my teeth.” Then she made a face. That did not sound like a ringing endorsement.

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I left an Uncrustables out for way too long, bit into it, and realized it was completely thawed, so I tried again with another one. Bingo, that one was still frozen in the center, with that slight snap. Sorry, Marnie and AdamVIP, I’m gonna have to side with my fiancée on this one. I wasn’t a fan. After the initial snappiness, which is sort of fun, the peanut butter gets chewy as it warms up a little in your mouth, and chewy is not something I associate often with peanut butter. I tried.

Peanut butter and cream cheese. Intriguing.
Peanut butter and cream cheese. Intriguing.
Photo: Dennis Lee
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Commenter engibear says:

I grew up eating peanut butter and cream cheese, and didn’t realize until college just how weird this combination is to society. In fact, my friends thought it sounded revolting which was impossible for me to wrap my brain around. The cool creaminess of the cream cheese cuts the stickiness and saltiness of the PB without any sweetness. My family does not know where this sandwich combo comes from, it just has always existed, and it is superb.

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I realize this is not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, technically speaking. But it is an intriguing sandwich. So I tried it, on Oroweat/Brownberry/Arnold bread, and I have to say, I’m torn. Here are my hastily scrawled notes:

I don’t understand this. It’s unexpected. I can’t say I like it, but I can’t say I dislike it, but the combination while eating it still makes me turn my head. I think it’s going to be marshmallow sweet but it’s not?

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Did I just quote myself? I sure as hell did. I do recommend you all try peanut butter and cream cheese, though, to see if this combo does the trick for you.

Halves of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
The spiced one with curry powder, cayenne, and apricot jam
Photo: Dennis Lee
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This next suggestion was one that played around with adding dry spices, which is something that piqued my interest big time. From discontentfern:

My go-to: Some variation of whole wheat (I like Arnold a lot), creamy peanut butter, apricot jam, with curry powder, cayenne, and black pepper. I like mine with more peanut butter than jelly.

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Now that I look at the above photo I realize I’d forgotten the black pepper. Crap. I’m sorry, discontentfern, for this grave oversight. However, I am going to say, this was a really fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was not expecting this to be so good. The curry powder is what stood out to me most; it played very well with the peanut butter and apricot jam by coming out at the end in a complex way I wasn’t expecting. The cayenne added lingering heat, and if I’d added the black pepper I know there’d be an instant bite to it. I highly recommend this.

peanut butter, bacon, strawberry jelly, on sourdough
The grilled one!
Photo: Dennis Lee
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And finally, there are some of you who are really into grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I generally don’t grill them, because if I’m eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s probably because I’m not in the mood to turn on the stove. From reader Make Cornbread Not War:

Grilled PB w/ strawberry jelly and almost crisp bacon on sourdough. Pile of chips on the side and you eat the sando over the chips and let it drip.

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I followed these directions to the letter, and I even grilled the sandwich in bacon fat, because it seemed like the natural thing to do. This is not a sandwich that could pass for a snack—this is a true meal of a sandwich. I know bacon is good when added to many things, and this holds true for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, especially when it’s a grilled one. The potato chip thing is a pro move, because otherwise you’ll end up with that precious mix of peanut butter, bacon fat, and jelly on the plate that might go to waste. This is certainly a version to make if you’re feelin’ the PBJ but want it flashier. It’s great.

So thanks, everybody, for the suggestions! I learned a lot of cool things, and your ideas kept me fueled throughout the day. I will dedicate my next peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the readers of The Takeout who made it possible.

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Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

rickv14623
Make Cornbread Not War

Dennis, thanks for the shout. I am glad you tried it!