It’s almost gauche to say you like bacon these days. Bacon is so popular that I feel strange espousing my love for it, as if it’s either a complete given or the bacon fad has receded in the night while I slept and now saying you love bacon is, like, totally lame. But like it or not, I fell in the love with Benton’s Bacon just as the bacon wave was cresting two years ago. I accompanied my beau to their smokehouse in Madisonville, TN to help with sound on this slide show he created for the Daily Yonder. We were given a tour by the fabulous Alan Benton, who looks strangely like Jimmy Carter and kept telling me I was so pretty I should be an actress. I liked him immediately (hint: If you want to get me to like you, just tell me I’m pretty and that I should be an actress. It works every time), and admired the way he talked about the process, demonstrating a real love not just for the product but for the steps that transformed it from pig to bacon. The only ingredients are pig, bacon and salt, aged around ten months in a small smokehouse that’s been there since the beginning of the operation. I believe there are little bacon fairies hiding in that smokehouse, making sure that Benton’s remains the most delicious bacon ever made.
I wasn’t even a huge bacon fan, but when he gave us bacon to take home with us, we cooked it up immediately to see what it tasted like. It was amazing. For, it didn’t shrink down like most store-bought bacon does (because it’s injected with water to make it look plumper and when you cook it, the water leaves the bacon, leaving you an embarrassed, shriveled little piece), but more than that, the salt isn’t overpowering. You taste an amazing meatiness and smokiness that I’ve not had anywhere else. Since then, I’ve seen Benton’s everywhere I turn- in cooking magazines, on food blogs, even on an episode of HBO’s Treme. It’s getting a lot of attention, all much deserved. I have Benton’s to thank for drawing me in, at least a bit, to the bacon craze.
I was at a produce shop a few weeks ago and they were promoting a new product they’d just started carrying- bacon jam. I was super curious. After then, I kept coming across bacon jam recipes and finally decided I had to make some of my own. This recipe from Martha Stewart, which I found via Stirring the Pot, uses maple syrup, onions, apple cider vinegar, coffee, brown sugar, garlic, bacon (of course) and a slow cooker. Looking at the ingredient list and cooking method, can you think of ANY WAY this wouldn’t taste absolutely delicious? I can’t.
It was super easy to make, the only real effort being frying the bacon, chopping the onions/garlic and pureeing the jam in the cuisinart. The result is smoky, sweet, rich and meaty. I had it with pimento cheese on crackers, but this would be delicious on sandwiches, steaks, veggies, mixed in with mashed potatoes or pasta… the possibilities are endless. If you like bacon and like eating delicious things, I highly recommend you try this.
My only regret? One of the recipes I looked at said not to bother using your best bacon for this– that regular old grocery store bacon would be just as good. I liked my bacon jam, but there’s no way it wouldn’t have been better with Benton’s.
Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam
Adapted from the December 2010 Issue of Everyday Food Magazine
Makes 3 cups
- 1-1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced small
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3/4 cup brewed coffee
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.
Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy; 3-1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks