Monday, October 15, 2012

Bacon Jam, A Fable


A short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.

Bacon Jam, A Fable

Once upon a time, there was a middle aged Encino housewife Toad who got a mysterious jar in the mail from her friend, Tracy Frog. Toad was very excited about this jar because it had the magic word, "Bacon", written on it.  Toad was right to be excited, because inside the jar was the most amazing treat in the whole wide world:  Bacon Jam.

But Toad was selfish, and did not share the Bacon Jam with any of the other animals in the swamp.  She did not even share the Bacon Jam with Mr. Toad.  She saved it all for herself, hidden in the way back of her fridge.

Then one day, when she went to get just a bit to put onto on her fried egg sandwich, the little jar was gone!  The helpful hedgehog that kept Toad's house clean had thrown it out by mistake.  Toad was  furious.  But the fridge was a lot cleaner and hedgehogs can be prickly, so she held her tongue and bided her time.

Soon enough, Toad went to visit Frog.  Because she was a kind and generous hostess, Frog took Toad to the Skillet Diner, where that astonishing little jar had come from in the first place*, and treated her to lunch.  Naturally, Toad ordered "The Burger" with Bacon Jam, arugula and creamy bleu cheese, and when it came she almost died with happiness, the burger was so delicious.  Instead of offering to split the heavenly burger with her friend Frog, Toad was selfish and gobbled up most of it all by herself.  In fact,  she only gave Frog one tiny little bite. To be polite.

Months passed, but Toad never forgot about the marvelous Bacon Jam.  While she and her colleague Badger were on a business trip in Frog's neck of the woods, she began scheming to herself.  Toad made a sly plan to take Badger to Skillet Diner.  She planned to have The Burger, and to convince Badger to order one of his own, so she would not have to share even a tiny little bite of her meltingly scrumptious Bacon Jam.

Seeing right through her plan, Badger, being a kind, wise, and generous guest, ordered the Ultimate Grilled Cheese with Bacon Jam, because he could see in Toad's greedy little eyes exactly how much she wanted to try that, too.  And when the food came, he let her have the first bite, piping hot and crispy, dripping with cheese and that incredible Bacon Jam.

Toad was profoundly moved, and more than a little ashamed of herself.  She cut her burger in half, and passed one half over to Badger.  Grinning, they each took a bite of the other's dish.  Closing their eyes, they groaned and mumbled with their mouths full:  "Oh. My. GOD.  This stuff is so GOOD!!"

Then they BOTH almost died with happiness.

The End.

The moral of the story is:

Never keep the wonders of Bacon Jam all to yourself.  But if you do, make sure you get to it before the housekeeper does.** 

Bacon Jam
This recipe makes enough for two large pint jars or 4 smaller jars of jam, so you will have plenty to go around.   I was inspired by this post on The Noshery, and after doing some research, I think the original source recipe was from Martha Stewart.  The flavor here is smokey from the bacon, but tangy and sweet from the long caramelization of the onions with the other ingredients.  I have no idea what the coffee is doing in there.  Probably magic.  Whatever.  It's unbelievable. 

2 lbs. thick cut bacon, or even better, the bacon ends and pieces from Trader Joe's
2 medium red onions, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. black coffee
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. maple syrup

1 canned chipotle, chopped with a little bit of the canning liquid
generous grating of Trader Joe's South African Smoke seasoning

Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces.  Heat a large dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat, then add bacon, in two batches.   Cook each batch slowly until just crisp, then remove bacon to paper-towel lined bowl.   Discard all but a couple of Tbs. of the bacon fat, then add the sliced onions, stirring to coat with the bacon fat.  Sprinkle with some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.   Add some, but not all, of the balsamic vinegar, and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Transfer cooked bacon and the balsamic onions, along with the juices in the pot, to a crock pot.  Add the rest of the balsamic, the apple cider vinegar, the coffee, the garlic, the mustard, chili powder, brown sugar, and maple syrup.  If you want to add some additional smokiness, go for the chipotle chili addition, or grate in some of the smoke seasoning from Trader Joe's.  Stir gently to combine everything.  Set crock pot on low, cover, and leave for 5-6 hours or overnight.

Stir again, then uncover and cook on high for 1-2 hours, until reduced, deeply burnished brown, and thickened.   Transfer 1/2 of the mixture to a food processor, and process until coarsely chopped.  Stir back into the rest of the jam.

Transfer to jars, seal, and cool completely.  Jam will keep in the fridge for at least a week, and freezes beautifully.  (ha!  Like you won't eat it all in one sitting!)

Click to print this recipe!

How to use your bacon jam:

  • On a burger, with blue cheese and arugula. Unoriginal? Yes.  But why mess with perfection? 
  • In a grilled cheese sandwich.  Shoot me now. Because you can make this in 5 minutes anytime you want.  For example, every day for lunch for the past five days.
  • On crostini, with bright green mache lettuce and a ripe slice of tomato (mini BLTs). This sounds like a good idea, but I'm probably never going to get past the grilled cheese option.
  • In a breakfast sandwich, on toasted country bread with a fried egg and arugula.
  • On pizza, with a nutty Gruyere cheese and thinly sliced potatoes.
  • On cheddar and scallion biscuits, with a fresh apple slice.

Did I mention the grilled cheese?

* If you don't want to make your own, you have get a little jar of heaven in the mail by ordering here.
** If you have another idea for the moral of this story, comment and let me know!

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