Asian Bacon Jam or Relish

Bacon Jam or Relish is something I started making back in 2012 when I suddenly came across a recipe, not sure where. But then I deviated from the usual suspects when it came to adding stuff to my bacon – coffee, maple syrup, etc etc all were used and discarded. When the good folks at Alpine Pork sent me some lovely streaky bacon with extra fat on it (and yes, that was because I requested), I was in the mood to make bacon jam.

So I did.

In the end, I don’t think I can really call it a jam – its just not that sweet. But a relish? Yes, I can call this a relish and spread this on toast, or put this between slices of bread and make a sandwich, or eat it straight off the spoon. It is that good.

My sister swoons at it.

To make this, begin with half kilo good quality bacon with a bit of fat. I cut the bacon into small pieces, because it will be processed in the end anyway, and this way I can retain the chewiness. In this case, chewy is good. So, I put the bacon in a pan and let it cook, covered, over medium-low heat, for around 10 minutes, stirring every once in a while to avoid burning.

After ten minutes, the bacon started to sweat out a lot of water and fat, and started to change color. I let the bacon cook till it was darker, around 10 more minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently.

After the bacon was cooked, remove it and put it in a bowl. Take a couple of tablespoons of the bacon fat and put it back in the pan. Add a stick of cinnamon, 2 star anise, and 2-3 blades of mace to the fat. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes over simmering heat.

Then, add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 10 cloves chopped garlic, and 2 tablespoon sugar. Let the sugar caramelize with the onion, low and slow, for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and beautiful. Remove the whole spices. Add the pork back into the pan.

Follow this with 1 teaspoon of Chinese five-spice powder. I make my own by grinding together star anise, Szechuan peppercorn, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds together. Please feel free to use store-bought one if you have it, or make it. Also, put in 1/4th cup Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine), 1/4th cup whiskey or brandy (use regular brands – I used Blender’s Pride because that’s what I had), 2 teaspoon fish sauce, 2 teaspoon oyster sauce, and a bit more sugar if you feel like it. Stir this together, bring to a boil, cover, simmer, and let cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let cool down for a bit. Process in a food processor till mostly smooth, but with a bit of chunkiness left. Now, this is what I do.

I fry a few slices of bread in leftover bacon fat and spread some of the bacon jam on top of it. And then I consume the thing, and the world is a happy place.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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