Monday, November 12, 2012

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Homemade Bacon Jam with Apple Cider

It’s pork and apple season around the Whiskey Forge. The mornings are cold again and I’m glad to have laid in supplies of cured meats along with various ciders and apple brandies to help take the chill off these brisk days and dark nights.

Frying the bacon; brown but not too crip
Of course, it’s never quite not pork season here and when the meat in question is bacon, seasons don’t play into the menu as much as they might with, say, a crown roast or garden tomatoes; we eat the stuff sparingly, but all through the year. When recipes for jam based on bacon started pinging on my radar last year, I decided to tweak them and give a go to my own version. Coffee seems an integral flavoring to many recipes, but it’s not a taste I wanted in my jam. Tinkering with cider, cider vinegar, and maple syrup instead helped give this sweet meaty jam a deep and complex flavor.

Spread it on toast? Yes, if you like. I mix mine into baked mac n cheese, fold it into cream of celeriac soup, streak it trough layers of a potato gratin, add it to cooked spinach with more garlic, and put dollops in folded-over puff pastry with a bit of cheese to bake cheaty little hand pies.

What would you do with it?
Bacon Jam 
2 pounds smoked, dry-cured bacon
3 large yellow onions
8-10 cloves of garlic
1/3 c/80ml grade B maple syrup
2/3 c/160ml cider vinegar
2/3 c/160ml light brown sugar
1 c/250ml apple cider
1 tsp black pepper 
Done cooking; ready for the processor
Cut bacon into lardoons or small strips. Place them in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pan, then cook on very low heat, stirring now and then, until the bacon is browned but not too crisp.
While the bacon is gently frying, peel, quarter, and slice the onions thinly. Peel and mince the garlic. Combine them in a bowl and set it aside.
When the bacon is cooked, remove it from the Dutch oven with slotted spoon and set it aside in a bowl. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the hot bacon fat, leaving in as much of the browed bits as possible that cling to the bottom of the pan.

At this point, throw away this fat if you want — but that would be foolish. Save it for making  cornbread, bacon fat mayonnaise, sautéing vegetables, flavoring succotash, etc.

Turn the prepared onions and garlic into the bacon fat in the pan and cook over a low flame until they start to brown. Deglaze the pan with a splash of water or cider if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients, including the cooked bacon, and bring to a boil. Boil about two minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring now and then, until the entire mass is sticky, dark brown and the meaty bits of bacon look almost shellacked (about 2.5 hours).

Towards the end of the cooking, stir often; it likes to stick to the pan.

Cool this mixture off the heat for about five minutes, then pulse in a food processor 3-4 times to yield a rough puree.

Done. Put in it a jar, keep it in the fridge.
~ Makes about 3.5 cups

Goes well with:
  • Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon (and a hand-dandy bacon glossary)
  • Maynard Davies' Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer. Maynard has several bacon books. My review of his latest and most detailed is here, ideal for those who want to cure pork bellies.  Includes links to his other bacon books.
  • A broad, steaming bowl of Speckklößebacon dumplings for a wicked hangover (or just a simple, homey dinner).

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