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More than a childhood classic

PB&J. It’s an acronym that evokes memories of simpler times from childhood (and maybe those broke college years): a tasty, quality sandwich.

One of the new vendors at the Loyola Farmers Market makes use of the abbreviation and plays upon that nostalgia: Peerless Butter and Jam.

Sourcing local grains and fruit from Midwest states, Peerless Butter and Jam bakes naturally leavened bread and prepares in-season fruit jams.

At just one-year-old, PB&J now operates out of the Plant, a sustainable, Southside food business incubator—but it did not start out that way.

“I started production last year in May of 2012,” says Laura Bushnell, PB&J’s founder and head baker. “I was working overnight at someone else’s kitchen.”

Bushnell now rents her own fully equipped, private space at the Plant.

So, what does naturally leavened mean?

“Basically, it means sourdough,” Bushnell says. She uses the phrase “naturally leavened” because her breads are not all “sour” in taste.

“I maintain my own sourdough starters. I like the flavor that they give to breads.”

Bushnell says health was also a factor in deciding what kind of bread to bake. The naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes found in PB&J’s bread break down faster, making it easier for the body to digest.

Last season, she took her products to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park and is still working on restocking her jam!

“We are sold out of everything we had made last year,” Bushnell says of her crowd-pleasing jam, which comes in cherry, rhubarb, strawberry, and rhubarb beer flavors.

In addition to calling to mind a childhood classic, the name Peerless Bread and Jam is referential in other ways.

The Plant, which also acts as an urban farm and research center, was the former site of meat-packing production.

“The name of the meat-packing company was Peer Foods,” Bushnell explains.

And while “bread and jam” seem like necessary qualifiers for the business name, it is also a reference to a popular children’s book, Bread and Jam for Frances.

“It’s an interesting place to be because there are so many opportunities for collaboration,” Bushnell says of the Plant, which houses space for multiple start-up food businesses.

Peerless Butter and Jam is the epitome of a small business: only four people run the operation.

“We’ve just taken on a lot by taking on two more markets,” Bushnell says.

At the markets, PB&J sells a variety of loaves from baguettes to focaccia, in-season jams, jam cookies, corn meal, and grains that they use in their recipes. Bushnell says it allows customers to “experience the grains that we are purchasing.”

PB&J will be at the Loyola Farmers Market on Mondays, as well as the Green City Market and 61st Street Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Bushnell hopes to one day move into local specialty stores, like Chicago health food staples True Nature Foods and Nature Leaf Natural Grocery.

The Loyola Farmers Market occurs each Monday (through October 14) on the southwest corner of Albion and Sheridan roads in Rogers Park. During the summer (June 10 to September 23), the market is open from 3-7 p.m. Beginning September 30, the market’s hours shift to 2:30-6:30 p.m. For more information on the market, please visit LUC.edu/farmersmarket.

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