How to Make a PBJ

For almost thirty years, I have practiced the construction of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, refining and perfecting the process that I now present here. Once mastered, this process will enable you to produce exceptional peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every time.

For a work surface, any counter will do, though a kitchen table with a suitably flowered plastic table cloth provides a perfect setting. In any case, make sure that the work area is at a height that may be accessed comfortably from a seated position.

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For ingredients, you will need six slices of extremely fresh Home Pride Butter Top Wheat bread, a jar of Skippy creamy peanut butter and a jar of Knott’s Berry Farm Strawberry Preserves.

Though these are the finest ingredients that money can buy, other brands can be substituted as desired, as long as you limit your choice to creamy peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and a bread that’s soft and moderately gummy. Under no circumstances should any of the ingredients be stale. Nor should they contain anything crunchy or chewy. This means that chunky peanut butter and multigrain breads or “health” breads are to be avoided.

Because you can’t control the ratio of peanut butter to jelly, the use of premixed peanut butter and jelly is prohibited. For one thing, the premixed varieties always contain an excessive amount of peanut butter relative to jelly. For another thing, the jelly is never the right kind. Finally, it doesn’t taste good.

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Step 1.

Take six slices from the loaf of bread, taking care to maintain the original order and orientation of the slices as you place them before you. If at all possible, choose the first six slices from a previously unopened loaf. In this way, the slice on the top will be a heel.

In any case, arrange the slices in the form of a pyramid, as follows:

Place the top slice (Slice 1) upside down on the counter (ie flip it onto its back, flipping right to left in the same way you would turn a page in a book).
Place the next two slices (Slice 2 and Slice 3) below Slice 1, flipping each slice from right to left, with Slice 2 to the left of Slice 3.
Place the next two slices (Slice 4 and Slice 5) below Slice 2 and Slice 3, flipping each slice from right to left, with Slice 4 to the left of Slice 5.
Place the final slice (Slice 6) to the right of Slice 5, but without flipping.

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Step 2.

Using a clean peanut butter knife, spread peanut butter on the left half of Slice 1, followed by the full surface of Slice 2, Slice 4, and Slice 5. I stress the use of a clean knife because you should never apply peanut butter with a knife that has residue from an earlier application of jelly. If you do not follow this recommendation, the resulting sandwich will likely taste too much like the mess you get from using premixed peanut butter and jelly, in that the flavors of peanut butter and jelly will be intermingled, to the detriment of both.

Spread the peanut butter carefully. Since the purpose of the peanut butter is to tone down the sweetness of the jelly, you should limit its application to a thin layer, no thicker than a slice of paper.

Cover the entire spreadable surface of the bread as consistently and uniformly as possible. In this way, you insure the proper consistency of the results. I often purposely apply a little more than I should, and then use the edge of the knife to scrape off the excess. If you’re really hungry, the excess can then be removed from the knife and placed in your mouth for subsequent consumption.

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Step 3.

After consuming the excess peanut butter from the knife, spread the jelly on the right half of Slice 1, followed by the full surface of Slice 3 and slice 6.

The jelly should be applied liberally. Any quantity between ¼ cup and ½ cup per slice is optimal. Again, make sure you cover the entire spreadable surface of the bread.

One of the more important reasons for choosing strawberry preserves over other varieties of jelly is the presence of partial and whole berries. If at all possible, one or more of these berries should be placed in the center of each slice that contains jelly.

Another significant reason for the use of strawberry preserves is its thickness. Other more anemic, bodiless jellies, would leak from the edges of the sandwich, thereby undermining the desired effect of the use of jelly.

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Step 4.

Flip Slice 5 onto Slice 6, flipping from left to right in the same way you would flip backwards through the pages of a book.

Before actually flipping Slice 5, visually confirm that the jelly side of Slice 5 will in fact make contact with the peanut butter side of Slice 6.

If either of these two slices have the wrong substance applied to them, discard all six slices of bread and return to Step 1. If this happens more than once, please stop altogether and ask someone you know that has a bit more intelligence to make the sandwich for you.

WARNING: Please do not gloss over any of the details of any of the steps either before or after this step. The proper success of the entire process depends upon the proper completion of each step. So don’t screw it up.

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Step 5.

Apply a liberal coating of jelly to the top of Slice 5, using the same instructions used in Step 3 above.

In actuality, assuming that you followed Step 4, you will in effect be applying the jelly to the bottom of Slice 5. However, since Slice 5 will have been flipped, the bottom of Slice 5 will be face up, thus behaving like the top.

Due to the quantity of jelly added previously to Slice 6, you will need to work carefully to prevent the jelly on Slice 6 from being compressed in such a way that it begins to leak from the edges where Slice 5 meets Slice 6.

For the same reason, a minimum of lateral pressure should be applied to Slice 5 due to the risk of causing Slice 5 to slide sideways across Slice 6. If this occurs, a significant amount of damage will be made to the delicate balance of peanut butter and jelly at their points of contact.

If, for any reason, either of these events take place, discard all six slices of bread and return to Step 1. If this happens more than once, please stop altogether and ask someone you know that has a bit more intelligence to make the sandwich for you.

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Step 6.

Flip Slice 4 onto Slice 5 in the same left to right manner described in Step 4 above.

The result should be a triple decker (eg. club) sandwich that has a slightly arched appearance on the top slice.

No jelly should be leaking from any of the edges.

All of the edges of the bread should align perfectly, in exactly the same way as they aligned in the previously unopened loaf of bread.

If, for some reason, either of these conditions is violated, discard all six slices of bread and return to Step 1. Again, if this happens more than once, please stop altogether and ask someone you know that has a bit more intelligence to make the sandwich for you. I know I’ve said this three times so far, but if you’re really that stupid, you need all the repetition you can get.

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Step 7.

Flip Slice 2 onto Slice 3 in the same left to right manner described in Steps 4 and 6 above.

The result should be a normal (eg. non-club) sandwich that has a slightly arched appearance on the top slice, though it should not be as pronounced as is the case with the triple decker.

Step 8.

Fold Slice 1 in half.

The result should be a half sandwich that has a slightly arched appearance along the fold, though not as pronounced as should be the case with the other two sandwiches.

If, for some reason, either of these conditions is violated, discard all six slices of bread and return to Step 1. Again, if this happens more than once, please stop altogether and ask someone you know that has a bit more intelligence to make the sandwich for you. If you still find this statement surprising or enlightening, then it probably applies to you.

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Step 9.

Finally, observe the results until you can’t stand the suspense, or until you become bored, whichever comes first.

In either case, pour a tall, ice cold glass of 1% milk, set it down beside the sandwiches (often called the “PBJ Tower”), and chow down.

Maintain the proper order of consumption. Eat the half sandwich first, followed by the normal sandwich, followed by the triple decker.

When eating the triple decker, but to a lesser extent when eating the others, work your way gradually around at least two of the edges in order to create an increasingly plump pocket of jelly. Once this pocket becomes dangerously large (ie when it seems likely that it’s about to spill out onto your hands, wrap your lips around the pocket and suck hard. It’s the biggest rush!

Closing Comments.

The main reason for choosing 1% milk over other varieties is that you want to minimize the number of fat calories consumed, while washing the sandwiches down with something other than dishwater (non-fat) and house paint (whole and 2%).

Informal calculations indicate that the PBJ Tower created by the above process will provide somewhere between 2000 and 2500 calories, not including the calories provided by the milk.

Bon appetit!

How to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich — CORRECTION

A close reading of the above reveals that I strongly recommend the use of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter and Knott’s Berry Farm Strawberry Preserves as the proper ingredients for a decent PBJ. However, you will note that the images provided to illustrate the article show a different brand of strawberry preserves.

I propose a two fold corrective for this error. First, I apologize for letting such an obvious error remain uncorrected for so long. Second, I offer an image of the proper ingredients (peanut butter and jelly only; no bread) that you can use to adjust your reading of the original article.

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You can safely assume that the original instructions are otherwise correct and suitable for their original purpose.

- March 21, 2004