Thanksgiving has always been a big deal in our house. As soon as Halloween is over, we dive into our trove of cookbooks and archived Bon Appetits.
Then the emails begin. At first it's just a soup suggestion here, a dessert idea there. Before we know it, the emails are flying fast and furious. "Help me choose one of these seven recipes for green bean casserole." Or "Do you guys want cranberry jelly, sauce, or chutney -- I've attached three recipes for each."
Sometimes egos get bruised (why don't you think I'll be able to pull this off?) and old insecurities come to the fore (you guys NEVER listen to my ideas!).
Finally, the winnowing begins. We eliminate the recipes that don't make us drool. Or we come up with a theme "International twist on the classics" or "Classics with the volume turned up" and go from there.
Ever since my sister and I got married, the logistics have become a bit more challenging. There's a little more negotiating about where to have the big meal. And more cooks who want to be in the kitchen. There are a few more dietary restrictions to deal with. And a lot more opinions to navigate. (On the other hand, there's my new baby nephew who makes everyone smile, no matter the level of tension in the kitchen.)
And some things never change. For as long as I can remember, I've been in charge of the appetizers. My dad has always made the soup. And my sister prepares dessert. My mom is everyone's sous chef, finding a serving platter here, chopping vegetables there. And over time, the newer additions to our family have claimed their territory too. My husband makes the (usually Bourbon-soaked) sweet potatoes. And my brother-in-law prepares the cranberry sauce, usually one with a spicy kick.
For this year's Thanksgiving meal, I've had a particular appetizer in mind for months. Bacon jam. Yes, that's right. Bacon jam. The food blogger who came up with this recipe, Not Quite Nigella, named her post Bacon Jam -- Your Wildest Dreams Come True. And she's not kidding.
This jam is sweet, salty, smoky, spicy and redolent of bacon. Basically everything you could possibly want in one bite. I'll be serving a dollop of the bacon jam on crostini spread with a thin layer of cheese.
But I'd eat it on toast, on an egg sandwich, on a BLT on a burger,...Honestly, I'd be happy to eat it straight out of the jar. I think it may become a new Thanksgiving tradition.
Start with good bacon.
Cut the bacon into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Fry in a nonstick skillet until the bacon is just golden brown.
Transfer a little of the rendered bacon fat to a Dutch oven and fry the onion and garlic in the fat until translucent.
Add the bacon to the Dutch oven, along with all of the other ingredients except the water. Simmer for 2 hours over medium heat, turning down the heat to low after an hour if the bacon is starting to burn. If your mixture dries out, add 1/4 cup of water every 15 minutes or so and stir.
This is what your jam will look like after 5 minutes:
After 30 minutes:
After 1 hour:
After 1 1/2 hours:
And when it's done cooking:
Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Then transfer to a food processor and pulse for a couple of seconds until the ingredients are chopped up, but the jam still has some texture.
Serve simply with crackers or get as imaginative as you like.
Barely adapted from a recipe by Not Quite Nigella
1 pound smoked bacon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion sliced
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
Black pepper to taste
1. Cut bacon into 1 1/2-inch pieces, the fry in a non stick pan until bacon is lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Put 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat into a heavy Dutch oven. Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent.
3. Add the bacon to the onion and garlic in the Dutch oven. Then add the rest of the ingredients except for the water.
4. Simmer for 2 hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water every 15 minutes or so and stirring. (I turned down the heat to low after 1 hour of cooking to prevent the bacon from burning.)
5. When ready, cool for about 15-20 minutes and then place in a food processor. Pulse for 2-3 seconds so that you leave some texture to the “jam.” Or keep whizzing and make it a smoother and more paste-like.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups