The History of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

ūüéßPea-nut, peanut butter, and jelly.ūüéß ¬†Barney sang it, and so do the Boy Scouts. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are, after all, a Made in America sandwich.


Growing grapes last year led to me making my first batch of grape jelly, the thought of which brought me back to my childhood, and an Internet rabbit hole of learning the history of the PB&J sandwich. Portions of this history of the PB&J sandwich were first described in another post I wrote, How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes).

1843: Horticulturist, Ephraim Wales Bull, chose a wild grapevine that thrived in his backyard, to begin work on cultivating a purple grape that would grow well in harsh New England weather.

1854: After many years of research, Bull developed a cultivar he liked and named it the Concord grape after his hometown of Concord, MA. He sold his vines for $5 each and made a small fortune as Concord grapes became a popular strain. Since plant varieties were not patent-protected at the time, nurserymen were free to grow and sell their own plants made with cuttings from his original vine and Bull died a poor man. Here is a good story about it. His gravestone read: ‚ÄúEphraim Wales Bull, the Originator of the Concord grape . . . He Sowed Others Reaped.‚ÄĚ ¬†I digress.

1869: Dentist¬†and clergyman, Dr. Thomas Welch, sought to create a non-alcoholic communion wine for his parishioners using the newly popular Concord grape. In his home kitchen, Dr. Welch prepared a batch of grape juice, bottled it, and using the new sterilization technique developed by Louis Pasteur, he pasteur-ized it. Pasteurization killed the yeast which would have created fermentation. Welch marketed the juice as ‚ÄúDr. Welch‚Äôs Unfermented Wine.‚ÄĚ ¬†Grape juice became popular for years to come with the ongoing Temperance Movement and later with Prohibition.

1880: Dr. Ambrose Straub, another physician, who, in an attempt to get calories into his elderly patients who were unable to chew meat, started crushing peanuts into a nutritious peanut paste. Now, the Aztecs made a peanut paste hundreds of years before, but it was Straub who ran with the idea of a peanut butter product. Oh, and George Washington Carver, the famous botanist, and inventor, he was responsible for encouraging sharecroppers to grow alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and soybeans. Carver then went onto to invent and demonstrate hundreds of uses for peanuts to help increase demand for the product. He is considered by many to be the father of the peanut industry.

1893: Dr. Straub attended the Chicago World’s Fair to hawk his peanut paste for medicinal uses. Concurrently, Dr. Thomas Welch’s son, Dr. Charles Welch, brought his new product, Welch’s Grape Juice, to the Fair to introduce it to the masses. Thousands of people sampled these two new products. Little did Drs. Straub and Welch know that together, their products would one day lead to the most popular sandwich in America.
Poster advertising the World's Columbian Exposition

1901: Ms. Julia Davis Chandler, a writer for The Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics, may have been the first person to introduce the peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the nation. She wrote, ‚ÄúFor variety, some day try making little sandwiches, or bread fingers, of three very thin layers of bread and two layers of filling, one of peanut paste, whatever brand you prefer, and currant or crabapple jelly for the other. The combination is delicious, and as far as I know, original.‚ÄĚ Imagine PB&J as an elegant tea sandwich.
bostoncookingsch19hill_1-1 image

1903: Dr. Straub invented the peanut mill and took out a patent on it. He sold all commercial rights to the peanut spread to Mr. George Bayle, owner of Bayle Food Products, who became the first commercial vendor of peanut butter. Straub continued to perfect his grinding mills.¬†Mr. Bayle took his ‚Äúpeanut butter‚ÄĚ product to the St. Louis World‚Äôs Fair in 1904 and sold out in three days.

1918: The Welch family developed a grape jam spread and called it Grapelade. 100% of their initial production was bought by the military for WW1 soldiers’ meal rations. After the war, the soldiers, now civilians, requested more grape jam for home use and in 1923, Welch’s introduced Concord Grape Jelly to meet that increased post-war demand.

1928: ‚ÄúThe best thing since sliced bread.‚ÄĚ Otto Frederick Rohwedder, an engineer from Davenport, Iowa, invented the bread-slicing machine that automated the production of pre-sliced bread in commercial bakeries.

1930: Wonder Bread started selling the sliced bread commercially. This surely helped lead to the rise of sandwich-making in the American household.

1929-1939: During The Great Depression, PB&J sandwiches were commonplace in school lunch boxes. Jelly was sweet and wet and was the perfect companion to help¬†peanut butter not stick to the roof of the mouth. It also wouldn’t spoil unrefrigerated in a lunchbox, another bonus. More importantly, ¬†the sandwiches were nutritious, and children liked them. With the automated production of peanut butter, jelly, and pre-sliced bread, the PB&J sandwich¬†was on its way to becoming a very popular sandwich.

1941-1945: During WW2, at least half of Welch‚Äôs production of grape juice and jelly were earmarked for the military and hospitals. Both peanut butter and jelly were part of the U.S. soldier‚Äôs meal rations. Soldiers came to rely on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for meals in the field. Take a look at this video created by Steve1989, who reviews MRE’s and Rations on YouTube. This one on RCI (Ration, Combat, Individual) rations from the Korean War shows you what it was like to eat peanut butter and jelly while in the field.

Squirm alert: it is almost impossible to watch this video without wanting to yell at the kid and tell him not to eat that jelly!

Post War: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches became even more popular as thousands of soldiers returned to civilian life and continued to want PB&J sandwiches.

1962: I’ll close with this memorable Welch’s Grape Jelly ad featuring The Flintstones, a cartoon that was popular on Saturday mornings during the Sixties when I was growing up.

Afterschool snack for my six brothers in the Seventies. Nice memories!



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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.


Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney

My mother’s mother, Marion, was one of my heroes. She was beautiful, loving, a fabulous seamstress and knitter, a talented cook, and she called me Darling. When I spent the night at her house, I awoke to her sound in the kitchen fixing breakfast and emptying the dishwasher, sounds that indicated all was well in the world. She would set the breakfast table with pink and white china, and in a matching shallow bowl, there would always be a sectioned grapefruit from my¬†grandparents’ grove. It was one of the many ways she used food to express her love for us.

Holidays were her favorite time of the year to cook. Many of the traditional recipes our family shares come from her recipe stash, especially if cranberries or mangoes are involved. Her recipe for cranberry chutney is my all-time favorite.

It is not Thanksgiving until I have prepared this layered-with-flavor cranberry chutney made with cranberries, apples, pecans, celery, oranges, raisins, and ground ginger.

Back when Grandma made it, a bag of cranberries weighed 16 ounces, not the 12 ounces you get today. A representative at Ocean Spray¬†told me they went to 12 ounces in 1980 when there was a shortage of cranberries. This is good info to know if you are using a pre-1980 recipe that says to “add a bag of cranberries.”

1 pound fresh cranberries (4¬Ĺ-5 cups), discard any that are shriveled
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
1 cup golden seedless raisins
1 cup chopped celery (4¬Ĺ ounces or 2 stalks)
1 cup chopped apple, peeled (4 ounces or 1 medium)
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped pecans

Prep all the ingredients.

Use a box grater or a Microplane to grate the orange. Be sure to wash the orange well first.

Combine cranberries, sugar, water and orange juice. Listen for the sound of cranberries popping as they heat up and expand in the water. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Once cranberries come to a boil, set a timer for 15 minutes and simmer over low heat.
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Remove the pot from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients and let sit until thickened.

I can’t express how much I love the sweet and tart tastes in this recipe. Instead, I will show you all the tasting spoons I used to try the chutney while it was cooling down!

Chill until ready to serve. This will last one week in the refrigerator.

I wrote a story about how cranberries are grown and harvested, here.

Other Thanksgiving Day Side Dishes We Love:
Melissa’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Auntie Martha’s Spicy Spinach (aka Spinach Madeleine)

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

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Homemade Grape Jelly

I can’t believe I made GRAPE JELLY, that ubiquitous purple gooey staple¬†of my youth.


For Baby Boomers like me, long before we had five varieties of preserves in our¬†refrigerator, we¬†had one — Welch’s Grape Jelly. In the 1960s and 70s, my mother¬†always¬†had a two-pound¬†jar of it in the cupboard, along with a¬†five-pound tub of peanut butter. Every day, my brothers would come home from school, make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, add a stack of Oreos, place it all on a plate, and down it all with a glass of milk — all as¬†an afterschool snack. To this day, I can still visualize the¬†sleeve of sliced bread collapsing¬†as its contents were¬†depleted within an hour of the boys getting home from school.

That memory got me wondering about PB&J sandwiches. You can read, A Brief History of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, HERE. 

Growing Grapes at Home


Over the last 20 years, my husband has tried to grow grapes with only fair results. We often had a lot of foliage with very little fruit. About five years ago, he decided to get serious about it and built a trellis for the vines on the western end of our vegetable garden. We planted muscadine grapes, which we knew grew well in our area, and one lone purple grape called Champanel, which is similar to the Concord grape. This year, grape production from that one Champanel vine exploded.

March 15: Grapevines appear dormant.

vegetable gardening

April 12: First nodes, and then buds appeared on the vines as the outer leaf unfurled.


April 30: Each green ball is a flower bud. The buds bloom into tiny white flowers that last one or two days before falling off and leaving the beginnings of individual grapes.



July 23: Almost ready to pick. I covered them with netting to keep the birds out.


August 6: Harvest day. Notice Marion, the Plymouth Bard Rock hen, eyeing the bowl of grapes on the ground. Chickens. Love. Grapes.


We harvested 8 pounds of grapes from that one plant. After washing and patting them dry, and removing the stems, rotten fruit, and unripened grapes, we were left with about 6 pounds of grapes.


Making Grape Jelly

All sweet jams and jellies are made essentially the same way. First, you simmer fruit to soften it and get it to release a¬†naturally occurring gum-like “setting” agent known as pectin. Next, you turn up the heat, add sugar and bring the fruit juice to a rolling boil which evaporates some of the¬†water eventually leaving a¬†gelatinous substance we know as jelly.

Note: only use grapes that are sweet enough to eat! The only “fail” I have had with this recipe was to use grapes that looked ripe but hadn’t ripened to the point of tasting sweet off the vine. I was trying to beat the birds and harvested too early. I thought adding sugar would sweeten them, but the jelly still tasted unpleasantly tart.

About Pectin:

Different fruits have different amounts of pectin in them — crab apples have lots of pectin, grapes have very little. Thus,¬†to get low-pectin varieties of fruit to set, you need to add additional pectin from another source. Otherwise, you end up overcooking¬†the fruit’s good juices to¬†get it to firm up. Additional pectin helps speed up the setting process.

The pluses of using pectin: pectin helps jelly achieve a set¬†quickly resulting in¬†a shorter cooking time which translates into a more intensely¬†flavored jelly, pectin helps keep the fruit’s natural vibrant color, and finally, pectin results in a higher jelly yield because you boil it¬†for a shorter amount of time allowing for¬†less evaporation of the fruit’s juices.


Feel free to follow the directions on the pectin box which calls for 3.5 pounds of cleaned grapes and 7 cups of sugar. You can buy grapes at the supermarket. Look for the darkest grapes you can find for the most intense flavor. You could also use 100% pure grape juice. I altered the recipe to fit the amount of grapes I had harvested. I honestly had no idea if the proportion of grapes to sugar and pectin would work to achieve a set. I was thrilled when it did and provided you with the exact amounts of ingredients I used for this batch.

My ingredients for 13 cups of jelly:

6.25 pounds cleaned grapes which produced 7 cups of grape juice
9 cups sugar
1 box of pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter (Optional — used to stop jelly from foaming while cooking.)


Before you get started cooking, clean two-cup jelly jars in the dishwasher and have them ready to fill as soon as the jelly is finished cooking. You will also need clean lids. Be sure there is no rust on them.

Pour grapes into a large pot. Do not add water.


Using a potato masher, squish the grapes in the pot.


Turn heat on high. Grapes will release more juice as they are heated. Bring grapes to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

Set up a sieve over a bowl and strain the juice. Here’s where¬†I got lucky.¬†I have had this vintage juice sieve in my basement for 10 years. I had picked it up at a yard sale because I thought it had nice lines. I had no idea about its specific role¬†in the kitchen, and I had never used it. When I saw cooks using it in jelly-making videos online, I was thrilled to¬†learn of its raison d’√™tre and then even more thrilled that I hadn’t konmaried¬†it!


Pour the crushed, cooked grapes through the juice sieve and swirl the dowel to push the juice through the holes.


The seeds and skins remain in the well of the sieve and can be composted.


Here’s an action video:

The juice and pulp settle in the bowl.


Take the juice and pour it back into the clean pot. Add butter to prevent foaming and pectin and then bring to a boil over high heat. Stir frequently.

When¬†the jelly reaches the point of boiling rapidly,¬†add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Nine cups seems like a lot¬†of sugar, but that’s what it takes to get jelly to achieve a good set. ¬†Boil rapidly for ¬†ccone¬†minute, stirring constantly. Start timing¬†when the juice returns to a rapid, rolling boil, a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred. After one minute,¬†remove from heat.


Ladle jelly immediately into prepared jars.


Cover jars with clean lids. At this point, you may choose to place the sealed jars in a boiling water bath to¬†preserve them through the process of pasteurization, or you can store them in the refrigerator unprocessed for immediate use. Since each of my jars was going to family and friends to be used right away, I didn’t bother to process them.


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At the end of the season, we prune our grapevines way back leaving us with long winding grape vines. I stripped those vines of their leaves and made grapevine wreaths. Now, I get why Martha does this stuff. The long vines were just there begging to be made into something decorative!

The final fall harvest from last year.

garden harvest before freeze

Early Fall Favorite Posts:
Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce
Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onion, and Potato Sheet Pan Supper
Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Putting Your Garden to Bed with a Blanket of Cover Crops
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
How Local Canola Crops are Grown


Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.