When the holiday season arrives, the best gifts just might be from your kitchen. And when those gifts are extra decadent, well that just makes them even better.
A couple of years ago I got the crazy idea to take my homemade gifts of food beyond cookies, cakes and pure vanilla extract to bacon. Seriously. More specifically Bacon Jam.
Yes! And I have to say that with all the challenges you’ll discover as you read to the end, Bacon Jam is quite possibly the best holiday gift ever. I say that because it’s what local friends and family clamor for.
- 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (note 1)
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (note 3)
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, more or less to taste
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (the real deal, please)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Note 1: Ignore the molasses in the photo.
Note 2: I’ve tested substituting bacon crumbles for bacon and wasn’t thrilled with the result. Your results may vary, which means crumbles are certainly an option.
Note 3: May substitute apple cider vinegar for all or part of the balsamic vinegar, which is what I do now after considering my own taste and feedback from my recipients. However, either will give you great results.
The first step is to cut the bacon crosswise into one-inch pieces and cook them in a large skillet, stirring occasionally until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned about 20 minutes.
Carefully transfer bacon to a sieve so the fat can drain off. Reserve one tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Chop two large onions. Add the tablespoon of bacon fat, chopped onions, and garlic to the hot skillet. Allow this to cook until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.
Add the strong brewed coffee, balsamic (or apple cider—see note 3) vinegar, brown sugar, sea salt, and maple syrup and bring to a boil; cook stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the skillet, for about 2 minutes.
Add the cooled bacon, stir to combine, reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook uncovered, until the liquid is almost completely evaporated and turns syrupy.
Or, transfer to slow cooker and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours; Low for 6 to 7 hours.
Once this bacon concoction has cooled slightly, hit it with an immersion blender (transferring to a food processor then pulsing until coarsely chopped works as well) and pulse just to smooth it out a bit—relish consistency.
Spoon into sterilized jars.
I opted for these Bormioli Rocco Quattro Stagioni 8.5 oz jars with lids from Italy because they have a classy flair for a lovely presentation. But any small glass jars with lids will do
As for the yield, I can fill four of these jars with one recipe of Bacon Jam, or about 4 cups.
The recipe doubles well but will take a longer cooking time for it to thicken.
I add labels and tie tags to the jars with twine. So cute.
Tag text: Put on anything like toast eggs pancakes sandwiches crackers bread potatoes burgers waffles steak meatloaf—anything and everything you can think of or just eat straight out of the jar. Keep refrigerated. Best served warm. Just heat and eat!
How to Use Bacon Jam
Serve Bacon Jam on crostini …
… on eggs, meatloaf, sandwiches, and potatoes. Wow.
Bacon Jam is especially satisfying straight out of the jar, too
There’s just something about bacon.
Store Bacon Jam in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks, and in the freezer up to 4 weeks.
Gifts of Bacon Jam
My original plan was to make Bacon Jam well in advance for Christmas gifts. I’d can these jars, using the traditional water bath method. This would allow me to make the Bacon Jam months ahead, and have it ready to be mailed come December. But further research nixed that idea.
Here’s the deal: It is safe to can fruit jams and fruits of all kinds in the traditional way because those items are acidic. Meat, however, is not. Bacon is meat. Traditional water bath canning is not sufficient to keep meat products preserved and safe for human consumption unless it is refrigerated continually.
Another method, pressure canning, requires a special stovetop pressure cooker and a more sophisticated method of canning and beyond my comfort level. Electric pressure cookers are not sufficient for canning meats because the temperature does not get high enough.
Bottom line: Even if vacuum-sealed in a Mason jar or pressure canned in the traditional water bath method, Bacon Jam must be refrigerated. Period. That precludes sending it through the mail, no matter how well it is packaged.
Bacon Jam is a great gift to be given as soon a possible, to be given locally and when the label clearly states that it must be refrigerated.