The Saga of the Bacon Jam

It all began innocently enough. I would make Bacon Jam to take to Bouchercon 2011. A jar would go into my silent auction contribution, and a few other jars would go to friends. The jam would be delivered in cute jelly jars.

To add to the fun, I ordered special, custom-cured bacon from a local charcuterie, The Ethical Butcher. The only real hitch was the timing. The fancy-pants bacon was to be delivered on September 9, which means I’d need to make the jam over the weekend so I could can, package, and ship it ahead to St. Louis on Monday. No problem, right? Tight, but plenty doable.

Except the magic bacon was delayed, which I learned two days before the planned Bacon Jam production. Le sigh. Fortunately, there are other sources of high-quality bacon. I went to Gartner’s Country Meat Market on Saturday morning, the 10th, and acquired five pounds of their delicious sugar-cured bacon. But then I ran into problem number two: record high temperatures forecast for the weekend.

I decided to get up early Sunday and make the jam before the heat. I figured I could be done with canning by early afternoon, then relax on the couch with a beer and the football game.

But then I encountered problem number three: I was making a lot more jam than usual. Typically, I work from a pound of bacon, which produces about a cup of jam. This time, I wanted plenty, not only to take to Bouchercon, but also to have for home and to give to family. What I learned on this particular Sunday is even though one pound of bacon can be turned into jam in about 2-1/2 hours, it would be more like 6-1/2 hours to transform five pounds of bacon. It was almost 1:00pm before I was ready to start canning. By then, the outdoor temperature was 92°F, and the temp in the kitchen was at 95°F. Oy!

(Complicating things in a delightful way was my desire to bake an apple pie for my daughter and son-in-law’s first wedding anniversary. At their wedding last September 11, they celebrated with pies rather than cake, and I had the privilege of making the pie they cut together at the reception. So it only made sense that I would make them another pie for their first anniversary. But the endeavor added to the heat generated in the kitchen. Oh well. The pie came out beautifully and they loved it, so it was well worth it!)

5 PorkiesThe Bacon Jam itself came out beautifully. The complication came in the canning process. Because it’s a meat product (though with added acid from the cider vinegar), it was necessary to pressure can the jam. No problem, except remember that heat thing? Yeah. But on the plus side, my wife helped prep the jars and troubleshoot the problem of losing the jar rack for the canner. The two of us soldiered on through the heat. We were able to can six half-pint jars at a time, so the plan was for two batches.

Alas, we suffered a containment failure on the first batch. This was sad, because we lost not only six half-pints worth of jam but also we faced with a third round of canning in a kitchen which approached 100°F by late afternoon. (Of course, we didn’t have to spend the entire time in the kitchen. Once the pressure was up, we could escape to the relative cool of the living room—slightly under 90°F—except for occasionaly dashes into the kitchen for pressure checks.) Each batch from fill to removal from the canner was about 3-1/2 hours (takes a long time for a canner to cool and depressurize in that kind of heat) so it made for a long afternoon and evening.

Best as I could tell, the containment failure was due to pressure fluctuation in the first batch. Batch Two was successful (finished about 8pm) and Batch Three came out at 11:30pm. By then, we’d gotten the kitchen temp down to the high 80s.

And this morning, I am pleased to report twelve half-pints are cooling on the rack. One of those jars will be opened this morning for a taste test, and the rest will head to St. Louis, assuming the tasting is a success.

And now, without further nattering, here’s a blow-by-blow of the Bacon Jam creation.

My recipe is a variation of several found online. For this batch the ingredients were as follows (divide by 5 for a more manageable recipe, rounding measurements up to the next quarter cup as appropriate).

  • 5 lbs bacon
  • 5 large onion sliced thin
  • 15 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup raspberry vinegar
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ground coriander
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste


Start with the bacon. Chop it into one-inch chunks and cook until nearly crisp. Drain excess fat and set aside.


Once the bacon is done, sauté the onions in a little of the reserved bacon fat until they soften, about 6 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook another two minutes or so.


(Note: the Dark Poodle of the Apocalypse will be sniffing around for errant bacon nibbles.)


Cooking onions and garlic in bacon fat smells soooo good.


Once the onions and garlic are ready, add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Still smells wonderful.


Then add that lucious bacon.


Cook for a long time at a simmer. With one pound of bacon, it’s usually about 90 minutes, but for a batch this size, it was closer to three hours. The key is low and slow until the bacon is tender.


Once it’s done, take it off the heat and let it rest. Everything will be soft and salty-sweet. With one pound of bacon, the rest time will be about ten minutes to allow the liqud to thicken a bit. For five pounds, it was more like 20 minutes, but that was no problem, because the next step is …


… to prep the jars: wash and sterilize.


Once the jam mixture has cooled a bit, pulse it in a food processor with the blade until the bacon is finely chopped but not pureed. You want a nice, spreadable consistency.

At this point, you can eat it. It will keep about a month in the fridge, or six months in the freezer. We eat it on crackers, crostinis, or on a fried egg sandwich (on toast or English muffin as you prefer.) Delicious.

But, of course, I wanted to transport the jam without benefit of refrigeration. That meant canning.


Hello, Pressure Canner of Doom.

You’ve already heard my Tale of Woe about the heat and Batch One Containment Failure, so I now I will skip right to …


… post-process jars of Bacon Jam cooling on their rack. Once they are fully cool, I will clean and label the jars, then pack for shipping. In the mean time …


… Taste Test via Lucious Breakfast Sandwich. The Bacon Jam is everything I hoped, and more.

11 Comments

  1. I’m fairly certain I just drooled on the keyboard. I’m bookmarking this, because I think I need to attempt to make this. :)

    Reply
    • It’s soooo good, and so easy.

      Reply
    • I am also drooling. I am looking for new and interesting jam/jelly recipes to can for gift baskets for Christmas presents and this sounds perfect!

      Reply
  2. How long do you process in half pints? Also does the bacon get mushy? Thanks in advance…Marvin

    Reply
    • Hi, Marvin,

      I’ve done this a few times now and refined the process a bit along the way.

      I pressure canned for 75 minutes at 11 lbs. even for the half-pints. My reading on this has made it clear even the small jars need the time. I’m at about 200 feet above sea level. I understand you need to adjust things if your altitude is higher, usually about 1 lb of pressure for every 2,000 feet above sea level. Though definitely double check that.

      One thing I learned was the original cooking time for the jam can be cut in half when I pressure can it. That additional 75 minutes at 240°F more than makes up for the reduced cooking time. While the fully cooked jam was good when canned, the flavor was richer if I didn’t cook quite as long before canning.

      The bacon doesn’t get mushy, no. The key is to not overdue in the food processor. You want little bacon bits, not a puree. So long as you’re careful there, you’ll have nice, meaty bits in the jam.

      I will say I prefer the jam cooked and refrigerated over canned. But, of course, if you want to ship it, you gotta can it to be safe. And really, the difference is one of yummy versus super yummy.

      Reply
    • This is the batch which you rejected in St. Louis, by the way.

      Reply
  3. I realize I’m way late to the bacon jam party but THIS POST inspired me to branch out into pressure canning. I have been obsessed with giving bacon jam as Xmas presents and I bought a canner on Black Friday and am set to start the project this weekend. So, thanks for the inspiration. Question, how important is the raspberry vinegar? If its for flavor, can I leave it out? I’d really like to use some siracha sauce to spice it up a bit instead.

    Reply
    • The vinegar is definitely optional. I’ve done batches with no vinegar, different vinegar, whiskey instead of vinegar. They’re all good.

      I haven’t used sriracha sauce, but I have done spicy batches with chipotles. Very yummy. I’d think you could definitely get some good results with sriracha.

      Glad you’ve joined the party!

      Reply
  4. I’m late to the bacon jam party as well, but am ready to jump in and dance! I just wanted to point out something about the canning part–if you are going to pressure can, you don’t need to sterilize the jars, they just need to be clean. One reference for this is here: http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH1452

    Reply
    • That’s a good point. I’ve always done a sterilization bath by default, but ’tis true it’s a redundant step when pressure canning.

      Enjoy your bacon jam!

      Reply

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