FARGO — This week marks the celebration of one of America's favorite sandwiches, the beloved peanut butter and jelly.
It's been a staple of kids' lunchboxes since the 1950s. Those of us who work on "The Scoop with Tracy Briggs" decided it might be fun to highlight a favorite or gourmet PB&J on this week's episode. But as we were hashing over some ideas, sports guy Jeff Kolpack (who sits near us) chimed in, "Have you ever tried the peanut butter and jelly burger at JL Beers?"
No, Jeff, we have not. Mr. Kolpack is clearly more than a renowned Bison expert — he is a peanut butter and jelly aficionado.
We took Jeff's advice and set off for JL Beers right across the street from us in downtown Fargo. We wanted to learn more about the burger they call the Not Just a Nutter Burger.
The guy to do it? JL Beers employee Steffan Lancaster, who either drew the "you have to talk to the media" short straw — or management knew with a soap opera or romance novel kind of name like "Steffan Lancaster," he'd be great on camera. And he was.
Watch our video here.
Lancaster told us the idea for the burger was kind of a fluke. They thought it might be a nice way to utilize the peanut machine they had at the other end of the bar. It's a machine that grinds the specially roasted North Carolina peanuts with a little salt and sugar and produces a creamy, delicious peanut butter.
Despite the odd combination of peanut butter, jelly, bacon, cheese and beef between the two buns, it's proven to be a popular choice.
"It is super popular," he says. "I know in a regular shift I probably make five or six of them, if not more."
He says even people who are initially nervous about the weirdness of it all come around to the flavor combination.
"We had two guys come in just this morning. One guy absolutely loved it. His friend was a little timid of the burger. But after he was convinced, he said he'd be a regular buyer of that burger," Lancaster says.
Lancaster says he starts by buttering the buns and putting them on the grill along with some cottage bacon. He then places the hamburger on the grill, seasons it with salt and pepper and flattens it to start cooking faster. While the meat is cooking, he takes the buns off the grill and adds the peanut butter, jalapeno raspberry jelly and a little bit of jalapeno.
Pepper jack cheese and cottage bacon are placed on the burger and warmed until the cheese melts. The burger is then placed on the bun.
A few minutes later, Lancaster brought us two delicious looking burgers. The one he placed in front of me had peanut butter, jelly and melted cheese oozing out the side. I eagerly took a bite, not knowing what to expect — but let me tell you, it was fabulous.
The sweetness of the PB&J did not overpower the taste of the burger like I thought it might. Instead, it gave the savory, salty beef and cheese a sweet note. Even the jalapeno wasn't overly spicy, just a nice kick. Yum. I'm a convert.
My Features department co-worker Emma Vatnsdal, who was along for the video shoot, decided to add a Midwestern flair to her Not Just a Nutter Burger by dipping it in ranch dressing. I'll admit that was good, too, but the burger stands alone without the ranch.
So the scoop is, in case you're wondering, yes, you can and probably should turn your hamburger into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
History of the PB&J
- 1762: It's believed the sandwich itself was invented around this time by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who wanted to be able to eat his meals with one hand during his frequent gambling binges. He ordered his servants to bring him meat surrounded by two slices of bread.
- 1880: St. Louis physician Dr. Ambrose Straub made a peanut paste for geriatric patients who had trouble swallowing. This is seen as a precursor to modern peanut butter. Around the same time, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) was the first to patent a process to manufacture peanut butter.
- 1893: Peanut butter is introduced at the Chicago World's Fair.
- 1900: Otto Frederick Rohwedder invents a machine that slices bread. It was a tough sell at first until bakeries embraced the technology. The slogan "it's the greatest thing since sliced bread" was born.
- 1900: Dr. George Washington Carver, while not the inventor of peanut butter, is credited with popularizing it by publishing "300 Uses for Peanuts."
- 1901: The first recipe for peanut butter appears in a cookbook.
- 1904: Peanut butter becomes so popular at the St. Louis World's Fair that grocery stores start to sell it. It is also being featured on the menu of upscale tea rooms in New York City.
- 1917: Paul Welch receives a patent for pureeing grapes and turning them into jelly. He called his product Grapelade (rhymes with marmalade), and it became a popular choice to spread on bread during the first World War.
- 1930s: During the Great Depression, families found peanut butter could be an inexpensive source of protein.
- 1941-1945: Peanut butter and jelly together on sliced bread appear on U.S. military ration menus and becomes a hit with World War II soldiers.
- 1946-today: As WWII soldiers came home, the popularity of PB&J hit the homefront and became a staple in kids' lunchboxes to this very day.
Information provided by the National Peanut Board.