It’s December. While I suppose I could be decorating the house (which somehow in my mind involves cleaning it as well and I’d rather avoid that as much as possible), or crafting fabulous gifts (leaving that for my knitting circle tonight) or shopping for gifts (which means leaving the house and dealing with the madness out there right now), yesterday I decided to curl up in my kitchen and try a few recipes that have piqued my interest lately.
The first one was a Cranberry Spread I’d seen here. We are big fans of cranberries, with any and every presentation of cranberry being good with us. The recipe looked easy – 2 bags of cranberries, a bottle of maple syrup and lemon extract. When finished, I yielded about seven 4 oz. jelly jars, that I canned in a hot water bath. I may have to make another batch or two before fresh cranberries disappear from the produce aisle. As a side note, I spread some on a slice of this triple fudge banana bread for breakfast this morning and they paired beautifully. I highly recommend making both. (Chocolate and cranberries are oh, so good together. And as there was lots of fruit as well as whole wheat flour involved, I’m declaring it a healthy breakfast.)
Up next, was Bacon Jam. I am a big fan of bacon. It makes everything better. I can’t handle eating a large amount of meat well, but somehow there is an exception for bacon. I’ve been known to eat an entire pound at a time, straight out of the frying pan. I love bacon. I’m one of those cooks who saves every bit of my bacon fat and then uses it in place of (or in addition to) butter or olive oil when I start a pot of soup, or to fry things like green tomatoes and tofu. (More on this in a minute.) So, as I started seeing bacon jam pop up on many of my favorite foodie sites and even crafty sites on the web, I was intrigued. In my usual fashion, I read a number of recipes and blogposts about it until I felt I had a good handle on a recipe. Ultimately, I went with this one, because it involved a slow cooker. Over the years, anything with the word ‘jam’ or ‘jelly’ in it has tended to not quite work out for me. I’ve scarred some pans, not to mention my ego and quite possibly my family, in making jams that never quite set or that were just completely inedible. It wasn’t until I read that you can make fruit butters in a slowcooker that I was successful in anything but straight preserving and pickling. (I’ve made apple & peach and am now convinced I can butter anything.)
So, bacon jam.
Good bacon is key, so I called up my friends at Open Gate Farm. They have a fresh rosemary and Virginia maple syrup cured bacon they smoke themselves that is just beyond words. Cville peeps, if you like bacon, then you need to get yourself some of this. Tell them I sent you.
They sell it in slabs, so you can cut it to the thickness you like.
I realized I had forgotten to pull my bacon out of the freezer to let it defrost, but I was pleased to discover you can slice it frozen with a serrated knife quite beautifully.
I prefer to cook my bacon on cookie sheets in the oven – you can do a pound or two at one time, without getting grease all over your stovetop and surrounding area. I love this method.
Slicing the bacon was probably the most difficult part of this whole endeavor. Once the bacon is cooked, you saute some onions and garlic in the leftover fat, add cider vinegar, dark brown sugar, and coffee. Don’t question the ingredients, just hold out for the finished sum of their parts. Dump it in the slow cooker for a few hours until it’s thick. If you love the smell of bacon, then you will be in heaven for the next few hours. When the liquid is thickened, throw the whole thing in the food processor (Or in my case, the blender) and coarsely chop it. Voila.
A sweet yet savory, bacony spread for biscuits or whatever you can dream up. I packed this in 4 oz jelly jars as well, once again, yielding about seven of them. As it is recommended that any meat product be pressure canned and I am lacking a pressure canner, I instead chose to freeze the jars so that they will keep for a longer period. I cannot stress enough how much good bacon is a key ingredient in this.
I wasn’t done with my good food day yet. We had some leftover oysters from our weekend that I fried up and turned into po-boys for dinner last night. Edie is not a fan of the oyster and requested my fried tofu version, that is based on a recipe from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes. Normally I fry the tofu in bacon fat (I told you it would come back up!), for an extra rich flavor. I cube and then bread the tofu as you would anything else you would fry. Unbeknownst to her, I tossed her tofu in the oyster liquid to moisten it, to help the breading stick. She liked it so much, she asked if there was any leftovers for her lunch today. (She will like oysters, she will!)
I usually make my own tartar sauce and while I am still experimenting with my recipe, yesterday I added some plain yogurt to the mix, with excellent results. It gave a certain tang to the mix that complimented the oysters beautifully. Here’s a list of what I threw in there:
sprinkle of dill
small amount of finely chopped onion
a few finely chopped dill pickles
plain, lowfat yogurt
Stir & refrigerate. The more it sits, the more the flavors will combine. I somehow never am able to make enough for it to keep on hand for more than a day or two. I’ve heard it keeps for up to a week (or more).
All in all, it was a good food day around here. Lots of experimenting, lots of happy results.