I think I’ve arrived.
As mentioned in the post on my first attempt at a bacon jam-type spread, I had developed a preparation that was reasonably well received by tasters but didn’t fully satisfy me. Ahead of our Winter Party next Saturday, I took another shot at it and the results were much closer to what I had envisioned: a good balance of sweet, salty and smoky, with just enough of the mouth-feel of pieces of bacon.
My new bacon apple butter is truly delicious and we’re already coming up with alternative uses—other than just slathered on bread or crackers—such as in soup, dumplings, quiche (Michelle’s idea)…maybe even back to the cheese soufflé.
Here’s the revised list of ingredients:
2 kilos/4 lbs smoked bacon, chopped fine
1.5 kilos/3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and chopped
350 ml/12 oz. amber maple syrup
120 ml/4 oz. scotch whiskey
100 ml/3 oz. tamari soy sauce
60 ml/4 tbls brown sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
3 star anise
8 black peppercorns
4 green cardamom pods
3 allspice berries
[Note: if you refer back to the previous post there are some pictures and info about my prep—apple coring and spice wrapping et cetera—I haven't repeated those parts here as they stayed basically the same.]
Step one: Saute the chopped bacon until much of the fat has rendered and the bottom of the pot is starting to develop a brown fond. Remove all the bacon with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with paper towels and set aside. Also remove all but 150 ml of bacon fat.
Step two: Add the chopped apples to the reserved bacon fat and sauté until quite broken down—thirty to forty-five minutes say—you’re looking for applesauce just before it starts to become butter. The apples will have darkened, but not to that mahogany stage that is good apple butter.
Step three: Add the reserved bacon, wet ingredients and whole spices (in cheesecloth or a spice bag) to the apples. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. For the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, don’t stir at all. Turn off the heat and skim as much fat off the top as possible. After a final stir, the bacon apple butter is ready to serve.
I put it into sterilized jars and left the tops loose until it had cooled down enough to screw the lids on and create a good seal. At this point, I put them in the fridge, but if I was going to store them longer, I would probably pressure-can them according to the instructions for canning meat. With so much salt, sugar and acid, it might not need pressure-canning per se, but I wouldn’t want to take chances.
I suggest letting the bacon apple butter come up to room temperature to serve. Any residual fat not skimmed off will then look like a nice sheen as opposed to white globules. The taste will also be a bit more robust at room temperature.
I’m really happy with this one, but I did see a bacon marmalade in the store recently that caught my eye…