Nothing makes me feel like more of a breakfast or dinner hero than remembering that I have jars of boozy bacon jam in the fridge. This rich spread could turn a sleeve of stale crackers into a pretty stellar dinner, but when you fold it into warm pasta with fresh corn, sweet tomatoes, and basil, or mix it with maple syrup for pancakes, then you'll feel like giving yourself a gold star for having the foresight to make it.
Boozy bacon jam is also a practical way to preserve bacon that might need using up. You cook the bacon, caramelize some onions, and hold the two together with a little maple syrup, a decent amount of bourbon, and a splash of vinegar. The resulting spread is chunky, with plenty of smoky, savory flavor and back notes of sweetness and bourbon. Making bacon jam is the greatest gift you can give to your future self.
Just like any other jam, bacon jam is a method of preserving something fresh by using low-and-slow cooking to turn it into a condiment. However, there's no fruit and very little sugar in bacon jam.
In many ways, bacon jam is riff on other meat spreads — like mousses or terrine. Cooking the meat and adding alcohol before storing helps preserve the meat.
For Your Information
- This recipe calls for at least one pound of bacon. It will cook down considerably, yielding about a cup.
- Choose an inexpensive, mild bourbon for finishing the jam.
- You'll need a couple jars for storing the jam after cooking.
Bacon and bourbon are a natural pairing, with bourbon's natural sweetness and smokiness bolstering the bacon's salty and savory notes. But the alcohol in the bourbon also acts as a preservative for the bacon and mellows the cooked bacon's concentrated flavor.
There's really no wrong bourbon to use here, but avoid pricy small-batch bourbons, as their nuances would be lost in the jam. Instead, reach for something middle of the road — we used with both Bulleit and Elijah Craig with great results.
How to Make Bacon Jam
Making bacon jam is a pretty straightforward, four-step process, but each of these steps takes some time. Here's how they all come together into meat-jammy goodness.
- Slow-cook that bacon: A Dutch oven is really ideal for this, as you want to sweat the bacon over medium heat until the bacon is browned and most of the fat is rendered. Use a slotted spoon to fish out the cooked bacon and pour off most of the fat. You want at least 2 tablespoons to stay in the pot, but more won't hurt either.
- Caramelize an onion: This is the longest part of the whole process. You'll slice one large sweet onion and then let it turn to golden-brown caramelized goodness slowly but surely in the same Dutch oven you cooked the bacon in. Don't worry if the bottom of the pan is sticky-brown at the end — we are going to take care of that.
- Deglaze with bourbon: Add the bourbon to the hot onion pan and scrape all the gorgeous flavors from the bottom — this is deglazing. Not only does it capture even more flavor from the onions, but it also concentrates the bourbon's flavor. A splash of vinegar goes in here too.
- Purée the jam: You could return the bacon to the pan and have a very chunky sort of bacon chutney, but your patience will be rewarded if you move the whole mixture — onions, bacon and all — to a food processor and pulse a few times. At this point, you can eat or store the jam.
How to Give or Store Boozy Bacon Jam
Bacon jam is an incredible gift to give — especially around the holidays. You want to cool the jam to room temperature before storing in jars in the fridge. If you give bourbon jam as a gift, make sure to attach a little note that the jam should be brought to room temperature before serving — this makes it easier to spread — and suggest your favorite way to serve it (even if that just swirled into plain pasta).
Boozy Bourbon Bacon Jam: Watch the Video
How To Make Boozy Bourbon Bacon Jam
What You Need
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic or sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Measuring cups and spoons
3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan
Wooden spoon or spatula
1 (8-ounce) or 2 (4-ounce) glass jars, for storage (optional)
Cook the bacon. Place the bacon in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered and bacon is browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer cooked bacon with a slotted spoon to a double layer of paper towels. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan.
Caramelize the onions. Add the onions to the Dutch oven and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the onions are very soft, deeply browned, and significantly reduced in volume, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Deglaze and add seasonings. Add the bourbon and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium, and add the maple syrup, vinegar, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Pulse in a food processor. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse to a spreadable, but chunky, consistency, about 5 pulses. If not eating immediately, transfer to 1 (8-ounce) or 2 (4-ounce) glass jars. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
- Make ahead: The bacon can be cooked 2 days in advance. Refrigerate the bacon and bacon fat separately.
- Storage: Refrigerate for up to 1 month. Warm the bacon jam slightly before serving.