Whether you spread it on a sandwich or spoon it over cheese, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this sticky-and-smoky, sweet-and-salty dip of indulgence. And, notes The Macintosh’s Jeremiah Bacon, the jam recipe itself can be just as versatile. Here, the star Charleston chef shares a no-frills version and offers a few suggestions for experimentation.
(Yields 1½ cups)
1 lb. bacon, diced or ground
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/4 cup aged sherry
1/4 cup sorghum
1/2 cup brown sugar
Render bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. Pour off some of the fat so one to two tablespoons remain. Add the onions, garlic, and salt and sweat until translucent. Add water, vinegar, sherry, sorghum, and sugar and stir. Add the bacon. Simmer uncovered until the mixture is reduced by one-quarter to one-third, then remove from heat. As it cools, the mixture will continue to thicken. Stored in a covered container in the fridge, the jam will keep for two weeks.
Get creative: Add any combination of the following ingredients to…
➤ Sweeten the pot: bourbon
or honey; or substitute maple syrup for the sorghum.
➤ Add some heat: hot sauce, cayenne, or chili pepper, to taste
➤ Alter the acidity: try Champagne vinegar or Banyuls instead of apple-cider vinegar; whole-grain mustard can be added after the jam has reduced.
➤ Brighten the dish: fresh chives and parsley, finely chopped, as a garnish
Knife trick: “Throw the bacon in the freezer for 15 minutes before dicing it to make it easier to cut through the fat,” advises Bacon. “Or for an even finer consistency, like old-school bacon bits, use a meat grinder.”
All about the bacon: “The quality and style of the meat will affect the jam,” says the chef. “You can use basic supermarket bacon, but getting a higher quality slab, like Nueske’s, from the butcher can take it to the next level.”
Order up: “Remember that whichever ingredient you put in last, people taste first,” notes Bacon. Want to add a quarter cup of bourbon? Do so when you add the other liquids, towards the end of the cooking process, so the bourbon flavor can come forward without overpowering the jam itself. The same thinking goes for heat: mixing in cayenne or hot sauce too late can make the first bite quite spicy. Instead, toss in a pinch of cayenne while the onions are rendering, and the jam’s kick will be subtler.