There's something about the winter that makes me want to make bacon jam. Last year, I threw a grilled cheese and nighttime zoo excursion birthday party for my New Years baby. We had our family come over for dinner to enjoy gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes before heading out to the zoo at 7 p.m. I wanted to serve a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches that would be satisfying and hearty enough to be a meal, so I made these sandwiches along with the Roasted Jalapeño Grilled Cheese Sandwich and served them with a tomato soup. When I volunteered to bring savory refreshments for a preschool board meeting, I wanted to bring something a little bit sinful for the parents who work so hard to maintain our cooperative preschool. The combination of the sweet, rich, and tart bacon jam with a sharp cheddar cheese on sliced sourdough is decadent and a novel twist on a grilled cheese.
Notes: The bacon jam is an involved recipe that requires an hour, a watchful eye, and a considerable amount of chopping. It's a worthwhile commitment. You'll find a number of uses for the bacon jam - including giving it away to friends and neighbors. Make a batch and share it with your loved ones, or you'll find yourself putting it in your eggs, spreading it on bagels, or even eating it off of a spoon at midnight for weeks.
Read More: The Shared Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Time: 1 hour
Yield: 3 cups
For The Bacon Jam
1.5 lbs smoked bacon
3 cups of sweet onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. Safely pour off bacon fat into a heatproof container, reserving browned bits and 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot.
Bring the pot back to the stove, turn heat up to medium high - add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add the sugar, garlic, and cider vinegar, stirring to combine.
Add 1/2 cup of the broth or stock and bring it to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.
Add 1/2 more cup of the broth or stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.
Season with kosher salt, black pepper and paprika and combine.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and reserve the pot. Process until desired texture. (I like a little bit of texture, so I pulsed mine 20 times- which minced the bacon and onion, but did not make a smooth paste).
Return the mixture to the reserved pot, place it over medium heat, and rewarm, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. (At this point, the bacon jam can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before using.)
Adapted from "Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking" by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim
For The Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
1 cup bacon jam
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook)
12 slices sourdough bread
Unsalted butter, room temperature
Preheat a non-stick griddle to medium-high heat. In a medium mixing bowl, mix to combine bacon jam and shredded cheese. Spread a generous layer of the bacon and cheese mixture on a slice of bread. Close the sandwich up with a second slice of bread, butter outsides of the sandwich generously. Slap the sandwich down on the preheated grilled and cook until the bread is golden and crusty, the cheese is melted and the bacon jam is hot- about 5-7 minutes per side.