Christmas is coming!
September 4, 2015
Yes, I know it is not yet Labor Day, let alone Halloween, and I am not breaking out the decorations and the Christmas carols. I’m getting older, but I ain’t senile. Yet.
But, I caught Child A out of town on a work trip last week, and decided I’d get the annual making of the bacon jam out of the way, as it involves frying three pounds of bacon and cooking significant quantities of onions, both of which smells drive her nuts. Yes, she’s an odd child. But she’s mine, and I love her.
Anyway, bacon jam is going to be one of the components of the holiday gift baskets this year, along with the tomato chutney and other stuff yet to be determined. Certainly pralines and toffee. Maybe fudge, although, having made fudge for Christmas for the past 20 years, I’m about tired of it. I’d like to find a good recipe for a savory biscuit or cracker, and make the baskets a mix of sweet and savory. And I can testify to the excellence of my bacon jam, so that’s a sure thing to go in them.
So the house was redolent of bacon and onions, which suited me and the dogs just fine. A pot of the stuff simmered away, and in a couple of hours, I transferred it to the food processor to blend it into a jammy texture, and canned it. And part of Christmas was done.
I’ve made bacon jam for several years now, having gone through a collection of different recipes, borrowed bits and bobs from each, and come up with what, to me, is the definitive recipe. It’s smoky, sweet, tangy, tart all at once, rich with the wonderful flavor of bacon, and it’s about the best thing you can put on a hamburger, just FYI. It also makes a great topping, with cheese, on a crostini, and I’ve been known to add it to my grilled cheese or pimiento cheese sandwiches. Not to mention the breakfast applications — with biscuits and some honey, for example.
So get busy and make you some, thusly. You will need:
- 3 pounds bacon, diced and the fat rendered, but not crisp
- 1 cup caramelized onions (about three medium onions)
- 1 cup strong black coffee
- 1/4 cup garlic confit from the fridge
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- about 1 tsp allspice
- about 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or brown; my hand found the turbinado first)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- about 1/4 cup brandy
If I don’t have caramelized onions in the fridge, I start with that; roughly dice the onions, put them in a bit of olive oil in your big Dutch oven, and let them go. Go ahead and use the big Dutch oven, because you’re going to use that pot to add everything else to. I go ahead and add the brown sugar to help the onions along in caramelizing.
While that’s happening, brown your bacon. I work with three pounds because Wright’s, my bacon purveyor of choice, sells a three-pound package of bacon pieces and ends. Same excellent bacon taste, just the trimmings, which is fine for these purposes. Wright’s, at $8.99 a pound, is pricy for making jam, but the ends-and-pieces, at $7.99 for three pounds, is a helluva deal. There’ll be some pieces big enough you’ll want to cut them up; try not to have anything bigger than an inch cube. I render it in batches, about a pound at a time, until it’s done but not necessarily crisp. Then when the onions get caramelized, I dump the bacon in with them. (The bacon grease replenishes my supply in the crock in the cabinet; one must, after all, keep bacon grease for one’s cornbread, and seasoning peas and beans!)
I add all the other stuff at whatever point I have a second amid stirring bacon. Measures, as in most all my recipes, are approximates. If you want yours hotter, add more pepper; sweeter, add more syrup. If you don’t have Aleppo pepper, a bit of minced chipotle will do. I used about 1/4 cup more coffee because that was how much was left in my cold-brew container in the fridge, and I didn’t see the point in wasting it. And then I just let it simmer.
I’ve done it in a slow cooker and cooked it overnight, but I was also going to be making bread, and as my counter space with access to electrical outlets is severely limited, so I just let it simmer away in the Dutch oven. It needs to cook at a bare simmer for at least a couple of hours, Once it’s cooled, transfer it (in batches) to the food processor and process until it’s the texture you want it.
I then transfer it to canning jars, the little half-pint ones, and process it in a water bath for about 45 minutes. This recipe will make five or six half-pints, which is enough to stock some gift baskets and still give you some to enjoy at home. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of canning, you could freeze it, or quarter the recipe and make enough to keep in the fridge for your own use; it lives nicely there for a good while.
But this stuff will win you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em admirers, I’m here to tell you.