A helluva mess, Days 4 and 5, and damn, I’m tired!

December 16, 2016

Got the pickles canned and ready to go. Eight half-pints and a pint.

Got the pickles canned and ready to go. Eight half-pints and a pint.

I have GOT to quit expanding (a) the basket list, and (b) the basket contents.

But I am within sight of done, will likely get done tonight, or at the latest, tomorrow, and can actually get some work stuff done this weekend, as I have some projects due out Monday. But I’d rather do that work on the weekend and get my cooking done while Child A is out of the house, as it kinda makes her crazy.

My kitchen presently looks like, as my father was fond of saying, “the hind wheels of bad luck.” In other words, it is one hot mess. And it ain’t getting cleaned up tonight, either.

A canner-full of bacon jam. Yum in a jar.

A canner-full of bacon jam. Yum in a jar.

Let’s see. We left you with pickles and pub cheese and Chex mix. Since then the Chez Keyboard Christmas kitchen has turned out:

  1. 8 pints of pickled eggs and bologna. Well, actually, 7 of pickled eggs and bologna, and 1 of just pickled eggs.
  2. 12 half-pints of bacon jam, plus most of a pint I stuck in the fridge for local consumption. (That’s six pounds of bacon ends and pieces, btw.)
  3. Another batch of eggnog, a triple recipe this time. I may yet make another batch, because I have more grain alcohol and I’m damn-sho not using it for anything else, and I have some really pretty quart bottles.
  4. Four loaves of what will become, when the loaves are frozen, sliced thin and baked again, homemade Rain Coast Crisps.
  5. Four mini-loaves of sundried tomato and cheese quick bread, mostly because I had the little loaf pans, I wanted to see how this variation tasted, and I damn well love this quick bread recipe. Finished off the last of my bacon and cheddar bread this morning and I was sad.
  6. There was something else, I think, but I forget what it was, and I’m too damn tired to get up and go look on the dining room table, which is where all this stuff is accumulating.

And I have learned A New Technique, and I am inordinately proud of myself, and it made making a double batch of bacon jam MUCH easier.

Kenji Lopez-Alt, he of the Serious Eats website and cookbook, proffered, in a column that I missed, that the best way to cook thick-cooked bacon was to sous-vide it, still in its from-the-store vacuum sealed package, overnight, then drain the fat and drippings, and then repackage and re-refrigerate, or refreeze. Then when you want some bacon, you peel off the already-cooked slices and quickly sear them in a skillet, which takes less than two minutes instead of five or ten.

Note line where bacon fat is starting to separate.

Note line where bacon fat is starting to separate.

My Memphis guinea pig, whom I led astray down the path of sous vide cookery and Instant Pot ownership, tried it. Waxed eloquent. Best bacon he’d ever had in his life, he said. And he is a serious connoisseur of bacon.

So I said to myself, “Self? You see any good reason why that ought not work with the bacon pieces I’m using for bacon jam?” and self agreed there was no good reason not to do so. So last night, we plunked two three-pound packages of bacon ends and trimmings, along with two pound-and-a-half packages of Wright’s sliced bacon, in the vat at 147 degrees, and left it overnight. For anyone who is doing math, that is nine pounds of bacon, which is a LOT of cured pig.

(Note: Have I told you lately how much I love my Anova circulator? I LOVE my Anova. I do not know how I lived without it, my Instant Pot, and my Cuisinart steam convection oven. Seriously. Ask Santa for one of these things; it’s the best thing that ever happened to a steak or a slab of ribs or some short ribs or brisket.)

I have been catching Wrights on a good sale at Kroger periodically — $5.99 for a 24-ounce package, which is $4 off its usual $9.99 tariff. So I’ll buy four or so at a time, and stash them in the freezer. I don’t go through as much bacon in the winter as I do in the summer, due to the absence of ripe tomatoes, so I’d accumulated a good bit of bacon in the freezer. If I was going to sous vide bacon for jam, I might as well do some for me, too.

I now have more than a quart of bacon fat reposing in the fridge, where I will use it for all kinds of purposes. If you save bacon fat (and if you don’t, please do not tell me you are crass enough to throw away what is essentially liquid gold), it is advisable to drain this fat into a separate receptacle, because it will be a combination of fat and water-based drippings. Let them cool (a snipped corner suffices to let the fat drain out), and the fat will solidify, and you can spoon it off. The juices are worth saving, too; would be a marvelous addition to a pot of beans. But you don’t want to save ’em together.

Normally, I cut my bacon up into smaller pieces, but as I had not opened the package, I didn’t do that. So I just plunked it all in the Dutch oven, added the other stuff (see this post, last year, which is probably the last time I made bacon jam, for the definitive recipe) and set it to simmering for a couple of hours. When it looked and smelled like it was done, I turned the heat off and let it cool a bit, and then pureed it in batches in the food processor. Then I portioned it out into jars, capped them and processed for 45 minutes. Done, and done. Easiest ever, and it was a double batch, at that. I also used the last of my brandy (finished out with bourbon) and the last of my maple syrup. They go on the replenish list.

The only thing left to do is freeze those loaves, slice them thin, and rebake them for crackers; make another batch of pub cheese; and if I decide to do it, make another four tiny loaves of quick bread.  Well, and when I was last at Kroger, chicken livers were staring at me, $1.49 a pound. So I got two pounds. What the heck, haven’t made liver pate in a good while, and it’s always a nice addition to a basket.

And of course, it may be that the boxes I got for the gift baskets are too small. Oh, well. Them’s the breaks. There will just be plenty of extra munchies around the house when you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come by to visit for New Year’s.





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