Wednesday, March 12, 2014
From the annals of childhood memories I recall the infinite pleasures of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For better or worse, PB&J’s have come back into my eating regimen because it’s an easy lunch, a great late-night snack or just a plain gooey, gushy gluttonous treat.
It all starts with the right bagel; this one is from Scratch Baking Company loaded with spices and seeds--it's also best to chose one with the smallest center hole so you don't lose a lot of the filling dripping out
But there are certain rules about how to make a proper PB&J sandwich. Food purists might insist on using only freshly ground organic peanuts as the spread of choice. I find it too strong. Give me good old store-bought Jif (or Skippy) anytime and keep the freshly made stuff for more rarefied uses.
I still like commercial grade peanut butter for a PB&J; creamy or chunky, it's up to you
For the jam component go for one from a local farm that uses local berries
For the jelly component I prefer jam or preserves. I think jam works best, and it should be a pure product made by a local farmer from local berries. Strawberry imparts the best flavor, and my favorite is from Alewive Brook's Farm who sells it at the farmer’s market in Portland and elsewhere. But I admit to using other jams occasionally. Apricot is good and orange marmalade, too.
As for bread, that’s a crucial ingredient. Without exception, it must be toasted. You want the peanut butter to ooze and spread all over the warm bread.
One of the great pairings of gastronomy, they're ready to be put together
My bread of choice is a toasted onion bagel. An everything bagel also works well as well as sesame and plain.
Next best is Jewish corn rye, which is very difficult to get, but was plentiful in New York and highly treasured by all persuasions for its delicious flavor and texture. New York and LA seem to be the last bastions where you can get this specialty bread.
Seedless rye is another good vehicle for PB&J. English muffins and even a Kaiser roll are great as the sandwich base.
As for plain old white bread (or whole wheat, if you must), any good quality bread will do. If you want to get fancy, try Rosemont’s Scala loaf—it makes a mean sandwich. But to really gild the lily a croissant fresh out of the oven from Standard Baking offers wondrous flavor and texture opportunities.
Perhaps the most unusual choice came to recently when I got a Christmas present of a terrific tasting homemade stollen from my friend Susan. I toasted it and slathered the PB&J all over. The combination of the candied fruits in the bread and its inherent sweetness opened up all sorts of opportunities for an enlightened peanut butter and jelly delectation.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.