Bacon jam is a deliciously intense relish that goes with just about anything and improves almost every savoury dish you can think of.
If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time to get started, and this collection of easy bacon jam recipes is the place to start!
What is bacon jam?
Well, for one thing, it’s not jam or even jelly. It is, however, utterly delicious.
Bacon jam is actually more of a relish. Salty, sweet and savoury, it is packed with the deepest, most irresistible flavours, all reduced down into little pots of bacony joy.
Serve it with meats, hot or cold, on canapés, salads or cheese boards, and it elevates just about everything.
Use it as a burger relish or add it to sandwiches to brighten up a dull lunch at your desk, serve it on baked camembert or use it to dress up a jacket potato. Add it to a creamy pasta salad. You could even use a little to garnish your favourite soup.
How is bacon jam made?
You will find bacon jam in the supermarkets sold as a premium product with prices to match. While it is true that that bacon jam tastes rather special, it is actually very easy to make. When you think that it costs less than half the the supermarket price to make your own, it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t.
I have already said that bacon jam is not a true jam. There are two important facts that follow from this.
The first is that the process of making bacon jam is much closer to a chutney than jam, though it’s much quicker and easier than either of these.
You simply reduce the ingredients down to a small, concentrated relish without any boiling at high temperatures, so there is no need to worry about splattering sugar around the kitchen or scalding yourself.
The second point is that this is not long-term preserving or canning. You cannot keep jars of the stuff at the back of your cupboard for months and expect the contents to be edible. You can keep it in the fridge for two or three weeks, but no longer.
Happily, bacon jam freezes beautifully. What’s more, it can be scooped out from the pot in the freezer, as it will not freeze solid. This means you can keep it for months, if you can keep your hands off it for that long.
Where does bacon jam come from?
Bacon jam seemed to burst onto the cullinary scene out of nowhere (or possibly out of the Internet) in the early years of the 21st century.
Although it appears to be a North American recipe, it owes a lot to Austrian verhackert or Slovenian zaseka, relishes or patés made from chopped bacon.
The difference is that these are more traditionally savoury dishes. The addition of sugar for a sweeter, longer-lasting relish seems to be an American innovation. Perhaps it’s a logical progression from the distinctly North American habit of putting maple syrup on bacon and eggs?
Is bacon really bad for you?
Some commercial versions of bacon jam like to cultivate a slightly rebellious image, as if there were something rather wicked about this lovely treat. Maybe it’s something to do with the idea of adding meat to everything. Then again, perhaps it’s the fact that alcoholic drinks and hot chillies can be added with delicious results.
Whether there’s really anything naughty (or unhealthy) about your bacon jam actually depends on the bacon that you use and how much you consume. And bacon jam offers such a concentrated burst of flavour that you only ever need a little at a time.
That said, there have been a lot of reports in recent years about processed meats representing a health risk. Scientists now say that the real problem is nitrites used in commercial curing processes for bacon.
There seems to be no doubt now that nitrites used in curing bacon can contribute to the risk of cancer. Happily, however, nitrite-free bacon is available. Some of the major supermarkets now insist upon it, while nitrites are being reduced by others.
I buy my bacon from a supermarket chain that only carries nitrite-free bacon. This means I can allow myself to enjoy the bacon jam that brings me joy.
Classic bacon jam
So what goes into bacon jam? Bacon, onions, brown sugar and coffee seem to be universal elements. That’s salt, sweet, and bitterness all in the mix. I like to include a little garlic and some balsamic vinegar, which brings some acidity or sourness too.
That mixture of all the flavour elements is, I think, what gives bacon jam its special magic. Gently reduced down in the frying pan to a concentrated hit of flavour, it is easy to make. For me, it’s a pleasure to give and share too. If you haven’t tried it yet, this recipe is the place to start:
Classic Bacon Jam
How to eat bacon jam
I honestly believe that there is no limit to the savoury dishes that spring into new life with a twist of bacon jam! We enjoy it in so many ways and it goes with so many different flavours. Here are just a few suggestions.
Top or tail a meal with bacon jam
It is as good on a cheeseboard as it is on all sorts of canapes.
Liven up bruschetta with an extra burst of flavour. Bacon jam will melt into a tomato topping or contrast with peppery rocket.
Use it to top a baked camembert or as a relish with breaded fried brie, mozzarella in carrozza or Dutch style croquettes.
Liven up lunch with bacon jam
Add your bacon jam to any savoury sandwich or toastie to lift it to a new level. Try it with cheeses, salads, chicken, turkey or ham. We love it on a ham and cheese brioche toastie for a real treat.
Add bacon jam to your hot dog or burger. It saves cooking rashers and gives you the flavours of your favourite relishes at the same time.
Serve it with salad – so much fresher and better than dried up ‘bacon bits’.
Fill a jacket potato with sour cream and chive dip and add bacon relish on top.
Top a crouton to float on your favourite soups, see all our easy soup recipes.
Dress up dinner
Serve your bacon jam alongside all sorts of meats as a condiment. Use cranberry bacon jam instead of cranberry sauce with poultry.
Serve it on cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese.
Add it to the stuffing for a festive bird.
There are so many delicious ways to vary the classic bacon jam recipe. Here are some of my favourite versions. Experiment and enjoy!