11.20.14 Yes, I Can, Bacon Jam & a Giveaway

Cathy 790 xxx
photo by Christopher Hirsheimer (remaining photos by gluttonforlife)
Cathy Barrow is a "can do" sort of person. I first crossed paths with her online in the early days of Food52, where she has lately been featured sharing recipes from her recently published cookbook, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving. She's been a landscape designer, a retailer, a marketing consultant and the founder of Charcutepalooza—and I'm positive she's brought to each role the enthusiasm, creativity and competence that characterizes her every move. But I think she's going to be wearing this current hat—should I say toque?—from here on out, because if ever anyone had a calling for the kitchen, it's Cathy. We're all really lucky that she decided to create this preserving bible, because it's loaded with ancient ways and modern techniques for putting food up, plus wonderful ideas for using what's in your stocked pantry. Her recipes don't shy away from plenty of salt, fat and sugar, but she'll also teach you to can your own stock, make pickles of all kinds and even get started making cheese at home. Speaking of salt, fat and sugar, I made her bacon jam. Yes, I said "bacon jam."
Book 790 xxx
The book is a beauty, thick with lush color photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, the fabulously talented women behind Canal House. And Cathy can write! Her recipes guide you seamlessly through sometimes complicated steps and her descriptions are evocative, heartwarming and funny. (She encourages you to pack that bacon jam into tiny jars to help avoid "overindulgence.")
Olives 790 xxx
in a pickle
In clear, friendly language that is never overly concise, Cathy teaches you everything you need to know about water-bath canning (to make jams, preserves, chutneys, sauces, salsas, pickles, juice); pressure-canning (stock, beans, meat and fish); and curing with salt, water, smoke and air (meat and fish). She explains the equipment, just enough of the science and all her tips and tricks for avoiding common mistakes and pitfalls. Her confidence is contagious and, with Cathy as your guide, you wind up feeling bold enough to venture into new territory. This is a passing of the torch, one that will illuminate our kitchens for decades to come.
Cheese 790 xxx
snack attack
I was lucky enough to toast Cathy last week at a book party held in the Food52 offices. The glasses we raised were filled with a delicious bourbon cocktail enhanced by her canned peaches and among the hors d'oeuvres featured from the book was this divine pimento cheese spiked with her home-canned pimentos, hot sauce and candied chiles. It was rolled in chopped pecans for what she calls a "midcentury cheese log" and it was insanely good.

After reading this book, I think I may finally give in and buy a pressure canner. I want to can my own tuna. The idea of having ready-to-go beans in the pantry really excites me. Also, I've got to become better acquainted with our smoker because Cathy's recipes for hot-smoked salmon and smoked ham hocks have made me a believer.
Bacon 790 xxx
bacon bits
And now, to that bacon jam. It starts with a pound of bacon—hopefully the maple-bourbon version she instructs you to make but, if not, something quality you've bought from a reliable source. You chop this and cook it until it's crisp; a tantalizingly fragrant task.
Onions 790 xxx
half moons
Then you thinly slice a pound of onions. This is what that looks like. A sharp knife is de rigueur.
Caramelize 790 xxx
brown out
These you caramelize with brown sugar (a cheater's move, but a brilliant one). This alone looks like a terrific jam.
Bacon jam 790 xxx
my jam
But then all kinds of goodness gets added: pomegranate molasses, bourbon, coffee... It's really an inspired combination, and it cooks down until the liquid is gone and what's left is deeply browned, succulent and sweet. Cathy suggests you spread this on a tomato sandwich, dollop it on roasted squash or use it in her popular recipe for rugelach. Whoever stumbles upon this on a cheese plate will be your friend forever.

This book contains so much of Cathy's warmth and wisdom and, of course, her joy of cooking. It's my great pleasure to offer my readers a giveaway copy. Just leave a comment here by midnight on Sunday, November 30th, telling me about your adventures in preserving (or your fear of canning), and you'll be eligible to win your very own Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry.

I'm going away next week—I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my sisters for the first time in many decades—so this my last post until after the holiday. Good luck with your cooking and feasting and fellowship! (Visit past years' Thanksgiving posts and my recipe archive if you need ideas and inspiration.) Remember to breathe deeply and to choose gratitude over resentment wherever possible (for your own sake!). Banish perfectionism and refuse to sweat the small stuff. My love and thanks to you, as always. xo

Bacon-Onion Jam

from Mrs Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry
makes six 4-ounce jars
  • — 1 pound (450 g) Maple-Bourbon Bacon, cut into small dice
  • — 1 pound (450 g) yellow onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • — 1/2 cup (4 oz., 110 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • — 1/2 cup (6 oz., 170g) pomegranate molasses
  • — 1 cup (8 oz., 240 ml) strong coffee
  • — 1/2 cup (4 oz., 120 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • — 1/4 cup (2 oz., 60ml) bourbon
  • — 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt if needed

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, until well browned. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but i1/2 cup of the bacon fat from the pot.

Reheat the fat, add the onions, and cook over low heat until translucent and very soft, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and caramelize the onions until very deeply brown, about 15 minutes; be careful with the heat as this wants to burn.

Add the bacon, molasses, coffee, vinegar, bourbon and pepper, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer very slowly unit the mixture is as thick and glossy as apple butter and a deep rich brown, without much liquid, about 2 hours. Taste and correct for seasoning—salt and pepper—but be judicious, as the flavors will develop further as the mixture cools. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Transfer every bit of the mixture to a food processor. It’s up to you how chunky you want this spread—I like it smooth and spreadable but you can leave it chunkier.

Pack into jars (just a little hint, 4-ounce jars might protect you from overindulgence). Refrigerate for up to 3 months or freeze for up to a year; if you will be freezing the jam, leave 1-inch headspace in the jars to allow for expansion.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


I look forward to trying the Bacon-Onion Jam, it sounds SAVORY, SWEET and delicious. I myself tried something new when canning my fall apple butter, as usual I wing it, I have always loved to expieriment so, this year I added a large handfull of dates and greatly reduced the sugar. The consistency is thick and delicious!
Ian on November 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm —
Love that idea!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:05 pm —
This may change everything. Years of avoiding that pot in the basement, and using those lovely ball jars as vases, for leftovers, for storing wooden skewers - anything but canning receptacles. The book does indeed look lovely, starting with the glassy, joyous berries on the cover. Have an absolutely perfect sister reunion. Thanksgiving is the perfect vehicle.
Antonia on November 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm —
Thanks, Antonia!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:05 pm —
my latest adventure in canning I am SO excited about and actually signed a confidentiality agreement for ! (Eek!). So all I can say is I'm doing recipe and development for a cookbook being put out by a very well known company (nuf said). I will be in w.b. canning and pressure canning heaven/hell for 2.5 months creating between 40-60 new recipes!! Do I win? Also, I can Canal Houses Cranberry Port Gelee every year because it's so good (as seen on Food52). Xox
Tamika on November 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm —
Wow, that sounds amazing! The new adventure, I mean. The cranberry gelée sounds pretty good, too...
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:06 pm —
I was fortunate that my very first attempt at jam-making was a success, giving me the fearless security to creatively tweak and develop my own combinations over the years, but I have never ventured into pressure canning...and the bacon-onion jam is definitely on my dance card soon! I would welcome both the opportunity to learn from this lovely book, and add it to my collection. Happy Thanksgiving!
Laura on November 21, 2014 at 6:47 am —
To you, too, Laura!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:07 pm —
Bonjour ! I would be happy to improve my cooking skills thanks to this great looking book. I did my first jam 2 weeks ago : a mix of pears and vanilla. What a treat to be able to eat your own confitures for breakfast or tea ! I'm sure i have a lot to learn about chutneys, pickles, preserves, that will then benefit my kitchen and please my hosts. Thanks for your appetizing blog ! Marie from Paris
marie on November 21, 2014 at 7:25 am —
Bienvenue, Marie! Pear and vanilla is a delicious combination!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:07 pm —
High bush cranberries...this is my third year trying to make edible jam from the berries and it smells like old socks!
diane on November 21, 2014 at 9:53 am —
Um, maybe a little lemon zest would help with the smell?
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm —
I would like to try your Bacon-Onion! Sounds so yummy.
 Tomo on November 21, 2014 at 11:17 am —
There may be some in your future, Tomo...
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm —
I've canned my own jam, pears, peaches and tomatoes, but would love to can my Italian spaghetti sauce! Can't seem to find a recipe close enough to mine (no sugar, onions or green peppers, please!). Would love to learn more from this cookbook!
Mary K on November 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm —
I hate green peppers, too!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm —
I'm foolishly petrified of a pressure cooker exploding in my face, so I go through the putzy process of canning with a giant pot of water... which is probably less safe than the former... Some day I hope to muster the courage!
Heather on November 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm —
Heather, a pressure canner actually does not replace the water bath technique. They are for two different kinds of canning. Sounds like you really do need that book…;-)
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm —
perfect timing... Trying to make Brussel sprout dish we recently had at Gen Ellen Star..brussel sprouts oven roasted then topped with a thick, sweet, bacon-onion compote. Seems, from other cooks, that the secret is the jam. The other B-O jam recipe I have is from NYT, but this one looks like it has more depth. Bringing as dish to neighborhood t-day gathering. Will let you know how it's received!
Peter B on November 22, 2014 at 5:51 am —
I think you'll be very popular!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm —
Alright. My parents were big canners in the 70s - we had a year's supply of food in the basement and even ground our own wheat to make flour. We were fundamentalists, waiting for either nuclear winter or the three days of darkness, possibly both. Anyway, I'm not sure how it happened, but there was a whole batch of canned green beans that went off, so my Dad wrote the word POISON on each lid of the tainted stock. He didn't throw them out, and when you went to get a jar of beans in the dark, cold storage room, you had to make sure you didn't reach up to the shelf on your tiptoes for the wrong jar. They sat on the shelf for a good 10 years before being thrown out, and gave the cold storage room a strange double edge. For a while I thought we were hoarding poison as a secret weapon, (you must taste the beans, they're simply marvellous) or perhaps as a kind of worst-case scenario cyanide tablet. I think now they were kept as a lesson in what happens when you don't follow the rules.
David on November 22, 2014 at 10:39 am —
I'm not even sure where to start. How did you turn out so "normal"?!
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm —
Peaches and tomatoes and pickles everywhere in the house.
Jonathan on November 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm —
Even under the bed?
laura on November 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm —
Such a coincidence. Up here in Canada, just purchased a bacon marmalade by our Presidents Choice brand , but Mrs; Wheelbarrow's sounds way better and her cookbook a perfect gift for my sister gardener/cook . Always a treat to read your blog. A wheelbarrow of thanks!
charlotte on November 24, 2014 at 8:41 am —
Thanks, Charlotte!
laura on November 25, 2014 at 10:02 am —
I've been canning tomato sauce for probably 10 years now. I did not grow up with canning so it was a dream of mine. Would love to learn more with this gorgeous book.
Kim on November 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm —
So happy your canning dreams have come true!
laura on November 25, 2014 at 10:02 am —
I love the idea of the bacon jam! I have canned the ordinary jellies and jams and tomatoes and applesauce --- but I think it's time for me to gather courage and try more savory spreads. And I would love to win Cathy's book to help me out.
Karen O on November 24, 2014 at 7:38 pm —
Yes, time to forge ahead into the savory!
laura on November 25, 2014 at 10:03 am —
I occasionally make kim chi and preserve lemons. Now, I am rushing out to buy a pound of bacon. Oh, Boy!
Conrad Zutavern on November 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm —