I was a vegetarian for more than decade until one fateful camping trip along the rocky hillside of Fort Robinson State Park. After that point, I knew I’d be a carnivore for all the days that lay ahead. Hint: It involved bacon.
Bacon: A Love Story
I’d fallen in love with a hunter, and I’d been dabbling with eating poultry for a few months prior to that trip. My life was quickly changing. All night long, I laid awake in our tent listening to the howls and yips of coyotes coming from every direction.
Consequently, when I finally did fall asleep, I slept late, and didn’t notice when my then boyfriend (now husband) left the tent to start breakfast. He brought along unseasoned turkey sausage for me, and bacon—real, smoky crispy bacon—for him.
When I emerged from the tent, he handed me a plate of pale and unappetizing turkey sausage (this was 16 years ago; turkey sausage has come a long way since then). Then, he sat down to eat the crispy strips of bacon he’d fried up for himself.
I couldn’t help myself. I tried a piece and that was the beginning of the end. I ate ALL THE BACON that day. All of it. We hiked all morning, then stopped at a café in a nearby town for lunch. I ate my first BLT since early childhood. Of course, I ordered it with extra bacon.
It was what dreams were made of: smoky, salty, sweet.
I ended up getting terribly sick, probably because my body wasn’t used to it. But I fought my way through. It was another six years before I ate beef, but after letting my body adjust, I started to enjoy bacon in moderation.
Bacon Jam for Burgers!
I have to say bacon jam on a juicy grilled burger is one of the best things this side of Fort Robinson. It allows me to enjoy the essence of bacon without revisiting my earlier over-indulgences.
Bacon jam balances sweet and salty flavors for a burger topping that takes your backyard barbecue to the next level.
How to Make Bacon Jam
The time it takes to make the recipe is mostly wrapped up in frying the bacon. Once that’s done the rest of it comes together quickly, and in one pan, no less.
Feel free to dice the bacon as small as you like, but I prefer larger 1-inch pieces chunks of bacon. It’s not so big that you can’t bite through it along with the fixings, but it’s still substantial enough that you get a good taste of bacon with every bite.
Think of it like big pieces of smoky, bacon bits floating in a sea of sweet sauce. It takes me back to the bacon and maple syrup flavors of my childhood.
Ways to Use Bacon Jam
This jam pairs well with other burger toppings such as lettuce, mayo, and red onion or our blue cheese burger sauce. Add it to grilled cheese sandwiches, spoon it into soups, add it to a holiday cheese plate, top your salad, or add it to roasted vegetables.
And if you think more bacon is always better, what about bacon jam to a BLT? The possibilities are endless.
More Great Toppings for Burgers!
This sauce is chunky, but if you want a smoother sauce either chop the bacon into smaller pieces, or pulse the finished jam it in your food processor to reach the desired consistency.
- 1 pound thick sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Recipe Note)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, packed
Cook the bacon:
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon in two batches so as not to crowd the pan. (If your pan is large enough, it's fine to cook all the bacon at once.)
Stir occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned, but not burned or overly crispy. Scoop out the first batch of cooked bacon with a slotted spoon, and drain it on a paper towel-lined plate. Cook the remaining batch.
This should take about 25 to 30 minutes total for both batches.
Cook the onions and garlic:
Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. You can eyeball it. Add all the bacon back to the skillet.
Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
Reduce the jam:
Add the vinegar and brown sugar to the skillet, and bring to a boil. Cook stirring and scraping up browned bits from the skillet for 2 minutes
Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid turns syrupy and almost completely evaporates—this should take about 30 minutes.
Store and reheat if needed:
Use immediately, or spoon it into an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to four weeks. Serve warm.
To reheat, zap it in the microwave for about 45 seconds or warm it in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through, about 10 minutes.