Is there a more perfect food than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Sweet, salty, bread-y...you know when you've been eating a sandwich for your WHOLE LIFE and you're still not sick of it, something is really working there. Always in pursuit of the most delicious locally made treats we can find to share with you, last year we came across a new little Philly based company called PB&Jams who make artisanal nut butters. We knew we had to get their peanut butter into HubBub to sell as a topping for our bagels. What we didn't know was how cool the story behind PB&Jams was.
For 13 years, Megan Gibson was a health and Phys. Ed teacher for grades K-12. Through her teaching, she always tried to stress the importance of whole, natural foods to her students. While she had never cooked professionally, she'd been toying with the idea of getting involved in the food world in some way. But it wasn't until she tasted a spicy, savory peanut butter that her cousin's wife's mother brought back from Haiti, that light bulbs started going off in her head. She went home and started experimenting with making peanut butter. "I really wanted other people to get close to that experience of fresh made nut butter and that has really been a key piece of what I’ve been doing since," she says.
This year, Megan has been on sabbatical from her teaching gig and has been pouring all her efforts into growing PB&Jams, while definitely keeping it local. Her production facility is based out of the Center for Culinary Enterprise in West Philly, and she currently sells at the Saturday farmer's markets at Clark Park and Fitler Square. This spring, she plans to expand also to the Franklin Flea and the Saturday Headhouse Market.
While she says it's pretty much impossible to locally source nuts, she is working on building relationships with growers in the South and on the West Coast (reminds us of coffee, in a way). She also makes certain the other ingredients in her nut butters are local whenever possible: for instance, she gets honey from Stockins Apiary in Strasburg, PA, and maple syrup from Patterson Farms in Lancaster.
Commercial peanut butter usually comes in two varieties: creamy and crunchy. But PB&Jams pushes the boundaries with their flavors, including Hot or Not (based off the inspirational Haitian PB that started Megan on this journey), Maple Walnut, Simply Cashew and Simply Almond. While we currently just serve their Classic PB, we hope to soon carry a variety of PB&Jams products for you to buy and take home!
Megan says that while she must return to her teaching job once the sabbatical is over, PB&Jams is here to stay. And she wants to find ways to bring her nut butters to the kids she teaches. She says, "The PB&J sandwich is an American staple for a reason: it’s filling and comforting. So we’re looking at how we can get this to more families who might not be able to afford it, and other natural products, on their own." More power to you, Megan!
Two fun facts about Megan:
- Her favorite peanut butter sandwich is a play on the classic Elvis flavors: her Hot or Not spicy PB topped with some nice crisp bacon and a drizzle of local honey.
- She loves music! In fact, she named her company PB&Jams because she says to her, "music and food go to together like PB&J." She likes a lot of funk, soul, and electro indie stuff. She even DJ’d for several years around town at bars and clubs such as The Rum Bar, Ortlieb’s and the 700 Club. We asked her to share a favorite jam with us and she suggested this incredibly groovable song "Meet Again," by Mr. President. Put on your dancing shoes, kids! And thanks Megan! Your nut butters really are next level.