There are probably a few things your parents told you never to do.
Don’t touch the stove when it’s hot. Don’t pull the cat’s tail. Don’t cut your own bangs. Don’t put those vegetables up your nose. Luckily, I was blessed with parents who actually convinced me to do things outside of the box. Of course they warned me not to stick my hand inside of the boiling spaghetti pot and wear knee-pads with my rollerblades; however, when it came to being unique–my options were unlimited. Have you ever seen me dangle an asparagus in the air and then slowly lower it into my mouth? My dad taught me that. Have you ever witnessed me scoop a bug into a plastic container and take it outside to safety? That’s the influence of my mom.
When I look back onto my 27 years, I don’t ever recall a moment where my parents told me to stop being extraordinary. They knew that my name alone would set me apart from the crowd, so when I would come downstairs with my underpants on my head and a maraca in one hand–while some parents would have cried, mine would applaud.
I’m no stranger to strangeness.
That being said…I give you: Maker’s Mark Whiskey Bacon Jam
Any good bacon jam starts with one obvious ingredient…
Being a little crazy.
Well that, and bacon.
Although the word “jam” steers your mind in a sweet, not savory, direction–strawberry, blueberry, fig, etc–in my opinion, making a jam is simply the art of cooking down an ingredient until it bears its soul.
Yeah, you can quote me on that.
For this whiskey bacon jam, I racked my brain for ingredients that I knew would all work well with bacon. Maple, brown sugar, onions, butter…
To start, I chopped the bacon (3 grocery store-size packages) into small pieces and cooked it until crisp (see above). Next, I used the wonderful drippings that my good friend bacon left behind (thanks bacon!) and used that as my base for the rest of the ingredients. First in, sweet onions and brown sugar.
The onions softened and cooked down into this wonderful caramelized compote.
Next in, of course, went the whiskey. I didn’t want the flavor to be overpowering so I used about 1/2 cup. Other flavors that made an appearance as the jam cooked down: a few splashes of maple agave, salt, pepper, a splash of balsamic, a dash of cinnamon.
As you can see–this recipe isn’t one that’s laid out in exact measurements for you because I tend to cook by sight and taste-testing. If you want to make this at home and REALLY need to know–a splash is a two-second pour count and a dash is where you turn over the spice jar and pop it on the butt.
The most important part of this jam was TIME. Not thyme the herb, but TIME and patience. The more the flavors cooked together, the more this becomes a real, flavorful, complex and delicious dish–and not just some crazy idea you thought up after a few glasses of wine.
Two hours later…
The inspiration for whiskey bacon jam came from helping out a friend with an amazing cause.
He was thirsty and hungry.
A good friend of mine and a well-known Wilmington socialite, Ray Baca–owner of The River Room and Baca Photography–had helped put together a charity event called “Clicks for Kids” which was based on the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Read more here. Ray got volunteers from all over Wilmington to help out and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. When I thought about what I could contribute that would make the most difference–I realized that feeding the hard-working volunteers would be the way to go. But I didn’t want to throw together some sandwiches or pick up a fruit tray from Harris Teeter.
I wanted to assemble a treat so mouth-droppingly wonderful that every person there knew how much their time and contributions were appreciated.
I love doing twists on bruschetta. The amount of creativity you can pile on top of a toasted crostini is endless.
“Whiskey Bacon Jam BLT’s”
Homemade Maker’s Mark bacon jam, marinated baby heirloom tomatoes, and mixed greens tossed with lemon, EVOO, and sea salt.
*Baby heirloom tomatoes marinated with balsamic vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and fresh torn basil. Mixed greens simply tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.”
The savory jam melted perfectly into the crostini and the acidity from the sweet heirloom tomatoes was the perfect bite to cut through the fattiness of the bacon.
And of course nothing says YUM like a little self-promotion.
I also made an equally delicious vegetarian option to go alongside my very NON-vegetarian offering. I guess you’ll just have to come back for that one! But in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview…