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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today: Meet bacon jam, the black horse of the meat aisle and your new favorite condiment.
The story I want to tell is one of years of stoic veganism that met its demise to one beautiful batch of bacon jam—but that wouldn't be the entire truth. I never really ate animal products; I avoided them growing up and completely cut them out of my diet when I went to college. Then, on a fateful trip to Chicago, I broke my veganism with a deep-dish pizza. But it was bacon jam—the store-bought kind—that inspired me to head to the meat aisle to voluntarily cook up a batch of this irresistable condiment.
Buying store-bought bacon jam can become an expensive habit—it is the kind of food that gave Whole Foods its paycheck-related nickname. Making it, on the other hand, is easy and affordable. Once you start cooking up your monthly batch, as I'm sure you will, it will only be a matter of time before this underrated condiment finds a permanent place on your dinner table.
Bacon jam can be used to add depth to just about any food: Spread a little on your breakfast sandwich, add it to order-in pizza when you don't want to splurge on extra toppings, or eat it by the spoonful. Want to add a smoky-sweet bite to your soup? Bacon jam! Want to bake next-level beer bread? Bacon jam! Think your mac n' cheese needs an upgrade? Add some salt... just kidding: Add some bacon jam!
Bacon jam changed me, as I'm sure it will change you. Before, I only indulged in Bac~Os, which—don't be fooled—contain no bacon (as a matter of fact, they're vegan). Now, I finally understand why people wax poetic about this cut of pork. Bacon jam made me a believer, a bacon-based poet. Now, it's time for you to join me on the bacon train:
Makes 1 1/2 cups
10 ounces bacon, maple-smoked and nitrate-free
1 heaping cup chopped onions (about 2 small onions)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup milk stout or malt beverage
Note: If using malt beverage, use only 1 tablespoon of brown sugar; if using milk stout, use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
Making bacon jam is better if you measure all of your ingredients before cooking for two reasons: Once you get cooking, it all happens pretty quickly and, more importantly, once you have measured out your 3/4 cup of milk stout or malt beverage, you can drink the rest as you cook. For your mise en place, everything should go into its own little bowl. If you don’t have eight little bowls, the vinegar and beer can go together, as can the maple syrup and brown sugar.
Start by chopping your bacon into 1/2-inch strips so that the pieces cook quickly and evenly. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and add your sliced bacon. Move the bacon around with a wooden spoon, making sure it cooks evenly and does not stick. Let it get crispy if you like texture in your jam, which I highly recommend.
Once your bacon is cooked, remove it from the heat and place it on the paper towel-lined plate. Transfer the excess bacon fat to a disposable container to either throw away or reserve for another dish, leaving a thin coating along the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon) for cooking your onions. Dump your onions into the pan and cook them until they're translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Now it is time to add the paprika and garlic to the onions. First, turn the heat down to low.
Stir a few times to evenly distribute the garlic, then add the maple syrup. If using malt beverage, use only 1 tablespoon of brown sugar; if using milk stout, use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Cook until the brown sugar has dissolved and the liquid has thickened slightly: When you pull a spoon along the bottom of the pan, the liquid should slowly move back into place.
Add the vinegar and beer to the pan, turn the heat back up to medium-high, and bring your mixture to a boil.
As soon as it has reached a boil, reduce the heat, add the bacon back into the pan, and let it cook at a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is slightly reduced.
After 15 minutes, test your jam by running your spoon along the bottom of the pan: It should should leave a trail, indicating that the liquid has thickened (as shown in the photos directly below).
Turn off the heat and let the jam sit for 10 to 20 minutes, then pour the bacon jam into a blender or food processor.
Pulse for 1 to 2 minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. I prefer the consistency of chutney over that of jelly, but this is your bacon jam so pulse it to your heart's content.
Refrigerate the jam for about an hour before eating so it solidifies a bit. But don’t worry if you can’t wait—it also tastes greats warm.
Store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Photos by Bobbi Lin