Bacon jam. Upon hearing of its existence, every meat-eating man or woman begins a subconscious journey to taste it. You may not realize that you’ve been searching for it, but trust me, you have.
Similar to the Austrian bacon and garlic spread Verhackert, bacon jam was made famous by Seattle-based food truck Skillet, which opened in 2007. Nowadays, bacon jam is all over the Internet. Although I heard about it while watching an episode of Chef At Home on the Food Network, it wasn’t until I picked up a copy of the cookbook Sea Salt and read its recipe that I realized I was destined to make it.
Besides its recipe for spreadable pork (more on bacon jam later), Sea Salt is chock full of excellent and easy recipes. Designed with oceans in mind by Alison Malone Eathorne and Hilary and Lorna Malone, this cookbook is broken up into eight chapters. Each chapter has a theme, for example: Brunch, On the Beach, Entertaining on the Dock, and Racing. Some items are best for feeding guests, like the grilled salmon with tamari soba noodles, and others are perfect for a snack stashed away in your boat while sailing, like the candied smoked salmon recipe.
There are lots of great recipes in this cookbook. I found the recipes to be well written, and a good handful of them can be made with relatively few ingredients. Some of the particularly approachable recipes are perfect for any university student looking to impress visiting parents. My favourites were the grilled brie with thyme-infused honey, and the white bean hummus. The brie, which can also be heated up in an oven, was nearly foolproof, and the honey is delicious and simple. An added bonus is that thyme-infused honey sounds incredibly fancy. The white bean hummus is a twist on a basic hummus (usually made with chickpeas). I personally think it should be renamed “hummus-inspired white bean dip,” as its likeness to hummus is faint. Its hummus-like qualities boil down to an intense garlic flavour and a similar colour and texture, although it is still a great dip. One recipe however that I would avoid is the almond arugula pesto. The pesto, although peppery from the arugula, doesn’t offer enough kick to live up to its basil counterpart.
This cookbook has a large number of recognizable recipes adapted to a new approach (sea salt and caramel brownies, wild mushroom soup, and muffin tin frittatas to name a few). This makes it a great resource book for a bourgeoning cook. However, the price of the ingredients on most recipes might be daunting for someone with a tight grocery budget. The bacon jam recipe, for example, calls for a pound of bacon, and a quarter cup of maple syrup. That cost can add up fast.
Did your taste buds perk up upon reading the words ‘bacon jam’? They should. Here’s the breakdown. One pound of bacon is cut up and cooked until brown. One onion, sliced thin, four cloves of garlic, and a combination of cider vinegar, coffee, maple syrup, brown sugar, and some Tabasco make up the rest of it. To get the full recipe, you can check out the book. I’ve found that most online recipes involve maple syrup, and water, but the addition of coffee is a nice touch.
The final product is caramelized, a touch tart, textured, and breathes an odor of soft masculinity. I don’t want to perpetuate the ridiculous “bacon is next to manhood“ trend that has developed in the past years (even if Nick Offerman is a genius), but the thought can’t help but barrel into your brain upon smelling this spread. It possesses all the sweet charm of caramelized onions and brown sugar, and all the grit of a bear hug from a chain-smoking, coffee-drinking swine farmer. Bacon jam immediately elevates a burger, grilled cheese sandwich, or salad dressing. It even finds a home in an oven-roasted salmon recipe, with some help from a tasty coating of cornflakes and pecans.
To steer the train back to Sea Salt, the number of creative-yet-familiar recipes in this cookbook make it ideal for any student looking to take their cooking past the realm of wieners and beans, or pre-made pasta sauce and chicken. It also would be great for a west coast cook looking to reinvent some of their favourites.
To find a copy of this book, check out the website at seasaltcookbook.com.