Every now and then you run across one of those foods that sticks in your brain because it made such an impression on you. We recently had a meal where this was served as a spread on a charcuterie plate with slices of toasted artisan bread. Both of us raved about the spread and when our server mentioned it was a bacon jam, the reason for our attraction to this flavorful spread was obvious, bacon. The combination of salt, smoke and sweet makes just about anything better, so having a jam made out of bacon and caramelized onions is a real winner. Not long after having cooked up this batch, we had friends over to the house that got a sample and immediately asked for a batch as their Christmas gift!
- 3 pounds hardwood smoked bacon (We liked apple wood smoked, but hickory or maple smoked would work too)
- 3 large yellow sweet onions
- 1 large red onion
- 1-2 shallots (depends on size)
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 bulb of fresh garlic (8-10 peeled cloves of garlic or 1 tablespoon of powdered garlic)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1 1/2 cups strong brewed black coffee (the stronger the better)
- 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (gives a hint of the flavor and just a bit more sweet)
We started out with a nice hardwood smoked bacon. I prefer to use an apple wood smoked bacon as it tends to be a bit sweeter which pairs better with the jam, but hickory smoked would probably be delicious as well. Our bacon was still frozen in the slab so we chopped it into 1 inch wide strips and tossed the frozen chunks into our Dutch oven (you could also use a heavy stock pot) and started rendering the bacon over a medium heat with the lid on. Make sure to give the bacon a stir every few minutes to ensure all the pieces are getting browned and not burnt.
Once the bacon is browned, strain out the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon onto a cooling rack that is over a paper towel lined cookie sheet. We have found that allowing the bacon to drip cool on a drying rack rather than the traditional paper towel lined plate allows the bacon to stay a bit more crispy as the grease can drip away. Drain all but around 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon grease and the remaining brown bits in the bottom of the pan. We retain all the extra grease as bacon grease as it is very flavor packed and a useful ingredient for lots of other dishes.
While the bacon is rendering, cut your onions into thin strips. We like to use a combination of sweet yellow and red onions along with some shallots to give a nice rich flavor. We found that cutting the onions into long thin strips (like onion rings cut in half) makes for a nice even way of caramelizing the onions.
After the bacon is done, place the Dutch oven back on a medium heat and add in the onions and the 2-3 tablespoons of rendered bacon grease. Let the onions cook down for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently to fully coat them in the bacon grease and browned bits from the pan. After about 4 minutes, add in the crushed garlic cloves and allow the onions to cook until translucent and soft.
Add in the cider, coffee, brown sugar and pepper, stirring to fully dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the bourbon and maple syrup. Mix well and allow the pot to come up to a boil. Boil for around 3-4 minutes stirring regularly along the bottom of the pan.
After the 3-4 minute boil, add in the bacon pieces and stir until bacon and onions are fully covered in liquid. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the pot to simmer uncovered to reduce the liquid. Give the pot a stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrupy consistency and the onions are soft enough that they are beginning to break down.
Once fully reduced, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before transferring the contents to the work bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth and spreadable. We liked ours with a little bit of the bacon crunch, so we only pureed the jam enough that we had little bits of the bacon that still had a bit of crunch. Store it in a mason jar or other container with a tight lid. It should keep well for a couple weeks in the fridge.
Sweet and smoky with a hint of salt and maple, this bacon jam is sinfully delicious and can be served warm or cold. We use it for breakfast with eggs and toast, as a dip with crackers and even have used as a component in a sauce on chicken. One of our personal favorites is to use it as a spread on toast with a sunny side up egg on top, which is a fantastic breakfast.