Two words: bacon marmalade. I could just stop this post right there, because if you are anything like me, you will hear those two words and immediately stop what you are doing to make a big batch of it.
In case you are still reading, let me tell you a little bit about these amazing sandwiches. A few weeks ago I was eating at one of my favorite lunch spots and the salad I ordered came with crostini with bacon marmalade. I wasn't sure what was in it exactly, but it was a revelation. I figured out the basic ingredients from the taste, but as soon as I got home I got on google and did some research. None of the recipes I found quite summed up what I was hoping to get out of my bacon marmalade making experience, so I pulled some ingredients from a few recipes and from my memory of lunch that day, and just went for it. It was good. Too good. So good I couldn't stop eating it with a spoon. It was even better the second time I made it, tweaking the recipe ever so slightly.
It's great eaten directly from the jar with a spoon, but it's better served on crusty bread with goat cheese, and even better smeared on toast with heirloom tomatoes, homemade mayonnaise, and butter lettuce. This really takes your average BLT to a new level. It is sticky and sweet and lightly spiced, and is nicely balanced out with the fresh tomatoes and lettuce and slightly tangy mayonnaise. Now I am wishing I hadn't given away my last jar of it to my classmates...guess I will just have to make some more.
1 1/2 lbs thick cut applewood smoked bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup coffee
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
large pinch ground cloves
small pinch ground nutmeg
salt and lots of fresh ground pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, saute the bacon slowly until just crisp. Don't cook the bacon too fast or it can burn or over cook and become crumbly. Remove the bacon to a paper towel -lined plate and drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until soft and starting to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes until garlic is soft but not yet browning.
Add the white wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has reduced a bit, about 3-5 minutes, add the sugar, coffee, molasses, syrup, allspice, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the bacon back to the pot, bring it up to a boil, then reduce heat to low so that the mixture is on a gentle simmer and cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the marmalade is thick and sticky. It will thicken more as it cools.
Store in jars or sealed container in fridge for a week or two. It also freezes very well. Before using, you can pop it in the microwave just for about 15 seconds to loosen it up a bit and be spreadable.