If you’re concerned about the presence of what’s essentially a novelty condiment in the $35-a-week plan, rest assured this was a host gift for my father-in-law’s Easter dinner, à la the jars of custom barbecue sauce I made for Christmas. I wanted something that was complementary to the meal being served (barbecued ribs) yet also unique and inexpensive, so I brought a couple jars of this “jam” along with a large homemade boule. I’ve made bacon jam before (Sur La Table sells it for $9.95 a jar, so it’s not that far out of left field), and while I wasn’t 100% happy with how it turned out this time, no one seemed to notice or care, so I’m recommending a couple of different methods here based on your personal limits of time and patience. It’s great on bread, peanut butter sandwiches, pizza, crostini, biscuits, a spoon…you get the idea.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. (Martha! Who would’ve thought!) It filled three 8-oz. jars, with a little extra left over for sampling. Following the “correct” method may result in a somewhat lower yield.
•1 1/2 lbs. bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (Costco has great-quality bacon for about $2.75 a pound; we keep a bunch in the chest freezer): $4.13
• 2 onions, chopped: 40 cents
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed: 3 cents
• 1/2 cup cider vinegar: 25 cents
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar: 20 cents
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (cheating! We still had some of this on hand we received as a gift last year): $0
• 3/4 cup brewed coffee: 6 cents
TOTAL: $5.07/3 = $1.69/jar
Cook the bacon in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until rendered and starting to crisp. Be forewarned this will take an aggravatingly long time based on the volume; set aside about half an hour. Drain the bacon on paper towels, and pour off all about about 1 T of the grease (save it in the fridge to use in any recipe that calls for oil or butter). Add the onion and garlic, cook until translucent. Deglaze the pan with the coffee, maple syrup, vinegar, and brown sugar, scraping up any browned bits. Heat until boiling, then transfer to a slow cooker.
Cook on high, uncovered, for 4 hours (if you’re limited for time and/or patience) or until very dark brown and syrupy, which could take as many as 7 hours or more (but this is the “correct” way). The method is much like rillettes or confit—low and slow, in its own fat, for as long as humanly possible. This time I only had time for 4 hours and I think it tasted fine, but it looked more like a potted meat spread than proper “jam.”
Alternately, you could do this on the stove in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, although I’m not sure how long it would take, and being able to leave the slow cooker unattended for hours at a time was somewhat of a life-saver.
When finished, transfer to a food processor.
Process finely, let cool slightly, and transfer to jars. Keep refrigerated. It keeps well for about a month.