Edible DIY: Bacon-Bourbon Jam
"The taste of this jam is truly outrageous."
The December issue of Everyday Food contains a recipe for Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam that I've been thinking about for weeks. I imagined slathering it on toast, using it in place of mayonnaise on turkey sandwiches, spooning it over pancakes. And basically just eating it straight from the jar.
What's more appealing than sweet, gooey jam infused with the flavors of brown sugar, maple syrup, coffee, and bacon? I certainly can't think of anything.
This weekend I finally made it. Though the recipe sounds a little intimidating (specialty kitchen equipment! four-hour cooking time!) it's really quite simple. Most of the ingredients are things you probably have on hand: onions, garlic, cider vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee. All I had to buy was a pound and a half of bacon. Save the fancy artisanal stuff for another use—regular supermarket bacon works best here.
After reading over the recipe, I couldn't resist adapting it slightly to my own tastes. It called for 3/4 cup of brewed coffee. What would happen if I reduced the amount of coffee by half and made up the difference with bourbon? The results were deep, oaky, and complex. The bourbon really brought out the smokiness of the bacon, highlighting the rich flavor of the maple syrup.
I made one other small change. The recipe called for cooking the entire pound and a half of bacon in one large skillet. I was worried about overcrowding, so I divided the bacon between two skillets to ensure even cooking. Unless you have a gigantic skillet, I suggest you do the same.
After adding the other ingredients, I transferred the bacon mixture to a slow-cooker and cooked it on high, uncovered, for four hours. The recipe said the liquid would be "syrupy." Mine reduced and thickened slightly, but it definitely wasn't syrupy or jam-like. Though a bit worried at first, it didn't matter. Once I pulsed everything in the food processor, it had a great chunky, chutney-like consistency.
The taste of this jam is truly outrageous. Each bite contains layer upon layer of flavor, from the caramelized onions and garlic, to the sweet bourbon and maple syrup, to the smoky, salty, porky bacon. The recipe yields about three cups, which is enough for three 8-ounce jars or six 4-ounce jars. Theoretically it will keep for at least a month in the fridge, but it's so delicious I doubt it will last that long.