Bacon jam…two wonderful words, brought together. When I mentioned this to my brother the first time, he said “what is THAT, and why haven’t I been embalmed in it?!?” Essentially bacon and sweet onions caramelized together, this is a glorious condiment with cheese and crackers, or spread on a grilled cheese sandwich, perhaps with avocado. Or a dollop on eggs…mmmm.
So right off the bat, credit where it is due…this recipe comes directly from the brilliant blogress at The Endless Meal and my adaptations are, well, making it on a cold mid-March Easter Day, in an only partially- recommissioned sailboat galley, giving you photos to work with including bonus video of the penultimate moment when it becomes “jam”, and giving you a suggested application at the end.
To start, dice a pound of bacon into 1/2 inch strips. Two bits of advice. First, this is one of those recipes where the lower-end ingredient is better than paying up for premium; you can use regular old bacon and don’t need to pay for “butcher’s cut” or anything that minimizes the fat in favor of meat. Second, bacon is infinitely easier to slice if you half-freeze it; 10-15 minutes in a home freezer, or give it a good half-hour against the cold plate in your galley icebox. Then it slices cleanly with much less tugging at stringy fat.
Throw the bacon into a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dice two large sweet onions.
This is what the bacon will look like when it’s time to take it off-heat…a little underdone and still chewy. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and save for heavenly applications in the future. Let the bacon drain on paper towels. Add the onions to the pan with the reserved bit of grease and cook over medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes until softened.
Reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 cup brown sugar. Stir the sugar through and cook over low heat until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Here’s what the onions and sugar start to look like when they are ready. Instead of distinct bits of onion afloat in a lot of brown liquid, the liquid has thickened and started to merge with the onions.
Add 1/2 cup strong-brew coffee, 1/3 cup water, and return the bacon to the pan. Stir together and raise heat to medium. Cook, stirring fairly constantly, for about 30 minutes until jam-like.
A moment of honesty…the only tough part of this recipe is knowing when things have reached “caramelized” and “jam-like” and being patient. So here’s some help…a series of photos and even a video to which to compare your progress. Above, the whole mess has been cooking over medium heat for maybe 5 minutes. Lots of liquid, and bacon and onion still distinct.
Here it’s getting close, about 20 minutes into cooking. The liquid has gotten a lot darker, and syrupy, and the onions and bacon start to look a lot alike and stick together.
And here’s the real helper…in the video above we are mere moments away from “jam-like”…again, you pull a spoon through it and it has that merged, sticky jam consistency. Turn off your burner.
Off-heat, stir in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. You can use regular, as I usually do, but for Easter I decided to splurge and use this wonderful aged and infused balsamic that stowaways brought us from a store in St. Michaels, Maryland during an anchor-out weekend. This recipe will fill a pint-sized mason jar with a few spoonfuls left over for snacking right away, which you WILL want to do…get those crackers and cheese out.
Tasked with bringing a canape to an Easter dinner, I paired bacon jam and avocado. This is my favorite way to quickly dice an avocado: cut it in half and remove the pit, use a knife to cut the flesh into dice right in the skin, then scoop them out with a sharp-edged spoon.
Using store-bought phylo pastry cups that cook up quickly and simply in the oven, I topped them with cream cheese, bacon jam, and avocado, and they were snapped up happily! Captain Peter’s favorite snack is even easier: a cracker with some Laughing Cow soft Swiss cheese spread on it and a dollop of warmed bacon jam.
These were as cheery a presentation as I could make on a cold, gray Easter Day. Delicious!