Monday, 8 October 2012

Bacon Jam

The origins of Bacon Jam date back to a walk I took with an old school friend in the hills above the town where we grew up.  We had been to an event the day before, and after a leisurely start involving bacon sandwiches and tea, we made it out of the house.  We cycled up to the hills on some frankly unroadworthy bicycles that were lurking in garage like some long neglected childhood memorabilia.  My bike jumped a few inches to the right with every rotation of the rear wheel, owing to a significant buckle, probably where a heavy object was placed on it some time in the past.  Her bike had to be cycled in a near crouching position, as the seat could not be adjusted.

After a somewhat cautious cycle ride, we made it to our destination and embarked on our intended walk.  As we walked our conversation ranged over a number of topics, but as is so often the case when two people keen on eating get together sooner or later the conversation settles on food.  Or more specifically  'how great are bacon sandwiches!', and how it would be good to have them more often, but they are not very convenient in a lifestyle of rushing around.  In fact all we have time for in the mornings is some jam on toast.  Wouldn't it be good to have bacon sandwiches available with the convenience of jam.  BACON JAM!  It seems so obvious once you think about it.

From that point the dye was cast and the challenge was accepted.  Bacon Jam would become a reality.  What I had in mind was combining bacon with an apple sauce to make it fit into a jar as one preservable mass.  The sauce could be any one of a number of types of apple sauces, jellies, chutneys or ketchups, but I settled on crab apple jelly.  I guess that bacon in jelly is technically potted meat, but Bacon Jam has a bit more panache to it and it is written in capital letters, which has to be a good sign!
Crab apples: clever camera work makes them look big but they are really  small.

Next time I happened to be passing a crab apple tree (on common land) I picked a small bag full.  These were duly chopped, covered with water and boiled for ...time.  I can't tell you how much time because I wasn't paying that much attention.  If you have read my introductory blog you may noted that I referred to apples boiling on the hob, and that is why my time keeping was a bit lax.  Instead of timing the boiling of the apples I started a blog.
Chopped crab apples boiling in the pan.  It is a fairly large pan  and they are small apples, just in case you thought  they were large apples in a cauldron.
It was taking a long time for the apples to of mushy so I decided to give them a hand with a potato masher. I soon regretted it though as the liquor (or juice if you are neither pretentious or too bothered about technicalities) went cloudy.  Every recipe I have ever seen for crab apple jelly mentions that you should not squeeze the apple pulp when you are draining it as it will make the juice cloudy.  It was only afterwards, whilst looking at the cloudy juice, that I reflected on the similarities between squeezing and mashing.
As I had only picked enough crab apples for one small batch I decided to soldier on, and hung the pulp in a jelly bag (actually the bag from my fruit press) to drain over night.
Apple pulp hanging over cloudy juice!
The next day I boiled a bacon joint and finely chopped some of it.  At the same time I measured the crab apple juice and added about half the amount by volume of sugar.  When I boiled it I was quite pleased to see that I went clear.  So I was getting bothered for no reason.
The now clear mixture of crab apple juice and sugar boiling.
I then took some of the boiling juice and added the chopped bacon.  It was at this point that I made a mistake.  Thinking that the sweetness of the crab apple jelly may be too much on a whole slice of bread, I added some of the bacon juice.  This instantly went cloudy and pink.  This was not the look I was chasing.  But all is well, that ends well.  It looks good on toast and tastes even better.  It is quite powerful and may be more befitting canapes.

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