Peanut butter and jelly is a food pairing as classic as eggs and bacon, fries and ketchup, milk and cookies. Paste made of peanuts dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Incas and Aztecs in South America. Fruit preserves have been around since the 1st century, but didn’t take off until many thousands of years later, due to the high cost of sugar. The perfect combination of peanut butter and jelly is said to have come from American soldiers in World War 2, who combined their rations to make the now-staple PB&J.
Today I’m happy to celebrate Peanut Butter and Jelly Day by making a lovely PB&J sandwich. It seems simple at first, until I realize– I don’t have any jelly or jam. I guess I should mention here there’s a difference between the two. Jelly is made of fruit juice, whereas jam is made of chopped fruit and often has pieces of fruit in it. The two are interchangeable in the context of peanut butter and jelly though, in my opinion.
No PB&J would be complete without the sweet goodness of jam , so of course I must make some.
I find this simple recipe online by Lord Byron’s Kitchen, and I gather the necessary ingredients. My boyfriend’s ex left three bags of the same frozen fruit mix in the freezer, so I grab one of those. There’s sugar in the cupboard, and I fish out a lonely two-thirds of a lemon from the fridge. That’s all I need!
The recipe makes two cups of jam, but I don’t want to preserve mine, so I halve the recipe. It should keep for a few weeks, and hopefully I’ll remember to eat it by then. I pry apart the frozen chunk of fruit to get two cups of chopped strawberries. For sugar I use 1/4 cup, and I just squeeze out the rest of the lemon, as I clearly already used a bit of the juice. Everything goes to boil in the pot!
The recipe says to bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer until it’s the right consistency, but I’m not sure what that means. A different recipe suggests freezing some spoons, then dribbling some of the jam onto a spoon. When you can draw a line in the jam without the jam running, it’s set. So, I throw some spoons into the freezer in preparation.
Two hours later, stirring every so often, the jam looks… jam-ish. I do the spoon thing, and it seems good!
Now, if I were making more jam, to preserve fruit over a long period of time, I would have to sterilize the jar and use a method called water bath canning to make sure the jams don’t grow mold, or the germ Clostridium botulinum, whose toxins cause botulism. That’s a really scary prospect, though rare. Luckily I only made enough for the next week or so. I have an old salsa jar, so I spoon the hot jam into that to let it cool.
Now we get to the bread and butter of PB&J day, or should I say the bread and peanut butter? I grab everything I need:
And I make the most beautiful, delicious, perfect, mouth-watering, glorious, amazing piece of PB&J I have ever tasted!
Let me tell you… putting all that effort and time into making my own jam made this simple snack taste so much better. Every bite was indescribably satisfying. The jam itself was sweet, tart, and very lemony. I always use too much lemon, and I’m not a huge fan of sourness, but I’ve overlooked bigger flaws in the name of love. This is definitely not the last time I make my own jam. I would be making banana jam for my banana-loving boyfriend right now if I had any lemons left. I’m already thinking that next year I might make peanut butter from scratch. We’ll see!
Happy Peanut Butter and Jelly Day!