Open Jars: Preserves in Toasted Sandwiches

October 22, 2010(updated on July 1, 2022)

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During my middle school years, I wasn’t allowed to use the stove when my parents weren’t home. I was, however, allowed to use the toaster oven. Blessed with that limitation, I became a toaster oven master. I quickly developed a cheese sandwich that was so good that other members of my family quickly asked to be included when I was making them.

My secret was to toast the bread plain, spread a thin layer of seedy mustard on the toasted bread and then top it with cheese. The cheese melts, the bread is crunchy throughout and the whole sandwich is infused with the zing of the mustard.

This summer, Scott and I splurged on a new toaster oven. It was a newer version of the same basic Black and Decker model that I’ve been working with for years (our previous toaster oven was one I bought used at a thrift store in 2002 and needed two or three rounds of toasting to achieve a sufficient burnishing). The new toaster oven works incredibly well, to the point where I had to watch carefully when I was first using it. I’m ashamed to admit how many slices of bread I transformed into little slabs of carbon while I learned its ways.

Recently, since the days have turned cooler, I’ve been returning to my lunchtime toasting roots. Somewhere about halfway past noon, my thoughts turn to what’s at home in the fridge. Soon enough, I leap from my desk chair and walk the block and half distance between my office and apartment (truly, I’m so lucky to live so close to work) and start building my lunch.

After I’ve done my initial toasting of the bread, I pull out one of the many open jars that clutter the fridge and apply a layer. In the picture above, it was a tomato jam day, but I’ve also used a variety of chutneys, jams and even pickles. On top of that, a slice of cheese and then the whole mess returns to the oven for a bit of cheese-melting. I eat it with a quartered apple and some sliced cucumber. An easy, filling lunch!

What I like about this technique is that it vanishes that fresh-out-of-the-fridge chill and the melting keeps the condiment in place (I’ve learned through trial and error that applying a preserve to freshly melted cheese is just asking for it to slide right off. No one needs that). It also works really well on a larger scale for party food as well. You can use small baguette rounds, a bit of smooth goat cheese and some of that jam you made this summer. People will rave and you’ll have the satisfaction of using up some of your home canned goods.

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26 thoughts on "Open Jars: Preserves in Toasted Sandwiches"

  • Mmmm, delicious! I’ve got some crab apple – habanero jam opened in the fridge that you can’t eat with just anything, I think I’ll try this technique for lunch tomorrow with some nice sharp cheddar. Yum, can’t wait! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • It is definitely an adjustment from old toaster to new. I love a good toaster oven, so useful especially since we don’t have a microwave.

    1. I just had a bagel w/ cream cheese and rhubarb-lavender jam — so yummy! It lets me use less cc, too, saving on fat.

  • Mmm…this is one of my favorite lunches, too! I never thought of adding a preserve, though – what a great idea! My previous place of employment had toaster ovens in the kitchens, but my current one, alas, does not. The microwave just is not the same. However, I have a blessed, much-needed day off today, so I think I’ll take your idea straight with me to lunch today 🙂

    Meanwhile, my husband has been bugging me to get a toaster oven…and in spite of my success with lunches like these, I’ve run into a fair number of truly crummy toaster ovens, and I’m not interested in giving precious counter space to a mediocre appliance. If we did so, we’d be giving our perfectly good toaster away (at my insistence, though he would prefer to have both??). What model is your new Black & Decker? What other things is it capable of, besides this divine lunch?

    1. Melanie, we bought the basic, bottom-of-the-line Black and Decker toaster oven. It’s been really great except for one thing. It’s designed so that when you open the door, it pulls the rack out. Sadly, they used such flimsy metal for the hooks and the rack that it never runs smoothly. I’m thinking about removing the hooks that pull the rack out, because they make everything stick. But beyond that, it’s a terrific and useful little appliance. I use it to bake potatoes and sweet potatoes (when I don’t want to heat up the entire oven), to reheat all matter of leftovers (it does a particularly good job on pizza) and bake eggs (break into a ramekin with bit of milk and some herbs and bake until set). Oh, I toast nuts in it as well.

      1. Fantastic – this is so helpful! Thank you 🙂

        And yesterday for lunch, I had toast with jalapeno jelly and sharp cheddar alongside carrot sticks and a sliced apple. Divine!

  • Your tomato jam sounds absolutely incredible and I wish I’d discovered your blog sooner, preferably during tomato season rather than, um, yesterday.

    With your recipes on my brain I went to Greensgrow after work and they were selling heirloom tomatoes for $3 a lb but they didn’t smell tomato-y and a few of the tomatoes sported a fuzz of mold, so I passed them by. Were they salvagable? Would they have ripened? How important is tomato quality when making the jam?

  • Mmmm, thanks for the great idea! My kids love toasted cheese sandwiches, and we’ve been adding pesto and fresh tomatoes this summer, but having some other options would make it better for me!

  • You’ve inspired me! I grew up with my father’s special toasted cheese. He’d layer a piece of bread with extra sharp cheddar and broil it until the cheese was browning, the middle was a gooey mass of cheese, and the crust was almost to the burning point.

    I really have to start doing that with a layer of tastiness in the middle. (and even better that it means I have to jar up some savoury goodies first!)

  • Hey Marisa,
    I’m trying to use up some of my jars by giving them as gifts, but most of my family lives on the opposite coast. I know I can’t fly with jars in my carry on, so I was thinking about shipping them ahead of time. Have you had any success in shipping your homemade goods before? If so, how did you ship them and what packaging materials did you use? I’m worried that the change in pressure in the cargo space might cause some of the jars to unseal, but I relize this might be a little ridiculous of me. Thanks so much!

  • This is my favorite breakfast, but I do both spicy mustard and preserves. Also, I don’t bother toasting the bread first, just layer everything and toast/melt at once. Since we always have a variety of mustards, cheeses and preservsd, I don’t get bored eating the same thing every morning.

  • Favorite grilled cheese ever: brie and cranberry sauce (and it’s a fabulous way to use up leftovers after Thanksgiving!) I’m curious as to your answer to Julia’s comment as well. I want to give some of my jams away as Christmas presents, but I’m flying home and don’t know quite how to get them there.

  • I have been using the tomato jam as a breakfast condiment – try it on toast with egg and cheese. Bacon would be a good add on too, if you are into that kind of thing. I have been thinking about using the jam on a thin crust pizza — maybe with some prosciutto, onions, or other savory toppings.

  • I became acquainted with cheese and chutney sandwiches while living in London one spring. Now I make my own chutney and add it to sandwiches and it’s delicious. Thanks for the reminder. It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these sandwiches, but now it will be lunch tomorrow.

  • I had a salami, brie and apricot (sadly not homemade) sandwich today…ever so slightly in a toaster oven…YUM!

  • I had this twice this week with the tomato jam on homemade bread, and muenster. Don’t have a toaster oven, so I used the broiler. It was SO good.

    Re: flying with jam, I would think you can check it, just not carry it on?

  • Yum, sounds good! I make a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches for my son, I need to try this & add some of my clutter in the fridge! Great idea!

  • Sounds weird, but the BEST grilled cheese is made with extra sharp white cheddar, basil leaves and cherry jam. Mmmm… I saw it in Martha Stewart last fall and we can’t get enough of it when the basil’s in season. Plus, I made a batch of cherry jam last summer, not really knowing what I would do with it (the cherries were free, can’t pass that up), and it’s almost gone.

  • This post makes me even sadder that I can’t eat cheese for another 9 months or so… *sigh* (I’m breastfeeding my daughter and have to avoid dairy products – they really do a number on her tummy.)