My sister and I visited my parents for the weekend in rural Michigan about a year ago. One afternoon while it was time for a snack, they said “You guys need to try this, but we’re not telling you what it is. We’re positive you’ll like it. See if you can guess.” They spread a tiny sample of a dark brown paste on a cracker and I took a sniff. It smelled good — really good. Thoughts of Sarah’s family and hometown flooded my mind as I took a bite. I asked, “Is this a chunky barbecue sauce?” “It’s BACON JAM!” they exclaimed. Of course! It’s not a big surprise the smoky, savory, and sweet flavor elements reminded me of Kansas City barbecue.
They’d seen an article in the newspaper and gave it a whirl. I searched a little and found the source: Not Quite Nigella, a website I could peruse for hours, if I’m not careful.
This recipe is basically hers. Look at her pictures of the process — they’re nice. I’ve scaled it down to 300g of bacon, since our favorite bacon comes in 150 gram packages. Besides, a little of this stuff goes a long way and we really don’t need the full yield, which still turned to be about one cup. Next time I’m going to up the hot sauce and vinegar components slightly for more zing, and add a pinch of salt, since our bacon tends to be less salty than American bacon.
300 grams (2/3 lb.) smoked bacon (or use regular bacon and 3/4 tsp liquid smoke in the sauce)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large onion, or 1 smallish medium onion, sliced
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce sauce (according to taste; 1)
2/3 cup (158 ml) coffee
2 2/3 tbsp (40 ml) apple cider vinegar (Apfelessig)
2 2/3 tbsp (40 ml) maple syrup (Mrs. Butterworth, if that’s all you got)
3/4 tsp liquid smoke
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a non-stick pan, fry the bacon in batches until lightly browned and beginning to crisp. You don’t want it fully crispy or burnt by any means. Cut the strips into one-inch pieces.
Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the bacon, onion and garlic into a pot (must it be cast-iron? How so?) and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the water. The original recipe said to simmer for 2 hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water periodically and stirring. But on our stove, even at the lowest burner setting, we lasted only about an hour and a quarter and four or five water addition / stir cycles before calling it quits. I found that the cycles got shorter and shorter over time. It had developed into a thick, sticky paste, reddish-black in color. Nothing smelled burnt, but I didn’t want to push it.
When “ready” (as close as you are willing to get to “burnt” without burning it), cool for about 15-20 minutes and then pulse or blend in a food processor depending on how smooth you like it.
Refrigerate for storage (I bet it freezes just fine…we’ll see). Makes about one cup.