A few weeks ago I was watching one of the cooking competitions on the Food Network where one of the contestants decided to up her burger entry with bacon jam. I was intrigued enough to go on the hunt for a bacon jam recipe. Now, there are no bacon haters in this family. Just the opposite. I can even get my husband to eat fried liver if it is cooked with bacon in bacon fat, so I thought I would surprise him with bacon jam to be used on the burgers we were planning for dinner that night.
There were a lot of recipes to choose from but I decided to play it safe and selected one featured on the Food Network. Here’s the ingredient list for the recipe I selected.
- 1 lb bacon
- 1/2 a white onion
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 bunch fresh roughly cut fresh thyme leaves
The recipe directed me to brown the bacon in a non-stick skillet. Remove the bacon, add the onion to the bacon fat and cook until translucent. While onions are cooking, chop the bacon. After the onions are cooked add the brown sugar and apple cider to the pan and reduce the sauce. Stir in chopped bacon and the thyme.
Seemed pretty simple. In reality, the execution was not exactly what I expected. In fact, it was an epic failure. And I am sure it was because I second-guessed the recipe.
My first problem may have been my choice of bacon. I was using a thick-cut bacon when I probably should have been using regular cut bacon. I began by cutting up the bacon before I put it into the skillet. I thought if you have to cut the bacon up anyway why not do it before it gets crunchy. Not a good idea as some pieces got browner ( read burnt) than others. When the bacon was cooked and removed from the pan I went to add the onion. It seemed like there was FAR too much bacon fat in the skillet for this recipe to work so I drained most of it off. I think I might have left a couple of tablespoons in the skillet. I added the onions and cooked them up. Then I added the brown sugar and the apple cider vinegar and waited for the sauce to reduce. When it seemed like it was reduced enough I stirred in the bacon and the thyme and let it cool. After about 15 minutes I went to check on the “jam.” What I had was not jam but a cooling mass of essentially bacon brittle. I turned the heat back on and added a bit more apple cider. It loosened up the jam a bit but the minute I turned off the heat I was back to bacon brittle.
Too late I realized you actually need that much fat to interact properly with the sugar and the acid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time or ingredients to remake the “jam” so I let it cool, put it in a double baggie and, using a meat mallet, broke it up into bacon bits. While it was still good on our cheeseburgers, it was not at all what I was hoping to achieve. In fact, it came close to an epic failure.
Will I try this again? Absolutely. But it is times like this that I like to ask myself the question from the old “Kung Fu” tv series ” What have you learned from this grasshopper?” My answer – Do not use thick-cut bacon, don’t pre-cut the bacon, and use all the fat.
Or maybe just find a different recipe!