Bacon Jam

One thing that’s great about the European Union is that it helps me explain the United States to Europeans. America is so big that France could fit inside Texas, and explaining the difference between California and Tennessee could be compared to the wide expanse between two diverse cultures, and like Denmark and Greece.

I didn’t grow up eating food from the American south; in New England we had lobsters and corn-on-the-cob, not collard greens, okra, and sorghum syrup. (Although once I discovered the latter, I saw – or I mean, I tasted, what I was missing.) Still, it’s not something I know much about, although I do get amused watching people get really worked up over a teaspoon or two of sugar in cornbread.

For the record, on the subject of whether a spoonful of sugar makes something a cake, if you know of any cake recipes that call for a teaspoon or two of sugar, please send them to me as people frequently ask me for low-sugar cake recipes.

While reading Sean Brock’s new book, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations, in his essay on cornbread in this book, recommends a certain brand of cornmeal, saying that “if you use the right corn, there’s no need to add sugar” to cornbread. So I suspect that little bit of sugar people (try to) sneak into cornbread may be due to the diminishing flavor of corn because of industrialization, and people started adding a small amount to replace on their palate what had gone missing in the corn.

I enjoyed Sean’s first book, Heritage, but found the recipes a little intimidating because I couldn’t get most of the ingredients. But reviving, and using, heritage ingredients, is part of Sean’s mission, so he calls for things like grains from Anson Mills, salt from J. Q. Dickenson, Red Clay Original Southern Hot Sauce, and Muddy Pond sorghum syrup.

I know the importance of good ingredients and know if you’re going through the trouble of making cassoulet, for example, you should use the right beans. And I recently learned to make couscous from Ron at NYShuk, and saw (and tasted) why using best-quality semolina makes a world of difference.

South is accessible and user-friendly. While you may not have any of the brand-name ingredients the chef recommends, or be able to get them (as is my case), I did have the main ingredient in this one: bacon (called lard, or poitrine fumé) in French, and there’s no shortage of lard in France) and had a jar of sorghum syrup on hand from when I made sorghum ice cream and sorghum peanut brittle.

(One a sidenote, if you have Netflix, be sure to catch the episode of Sean Brock on Chef’s Table in season six, which is very worth watching. His obsession almost killed him when he was striken by a rare autoimmune disease.)

This unconventional bacon jam is sticky, thick, and richly-flavored. It’s not jellied like fruit jam, but the sorghum gives it a powerful southern punch that’s tempered with a generous dash of vinegar. Sean doesn’t drink anymore, but I think it’d be good with a tipple of whiskey or bourbon in it, added at the end, with the soy sauce, if you’re so inclined.

One jar goes a long way and I found a number of uses for it. This jam is the jam, with roasted meats, chicken, duck, or even vegetables, such as roasted squash or eggplant. You can make crostini by smearing fresh goat cheese or softened cream cheese on toast and topping them with a bit of the jam, or put a dab on a spear of Belgian endive with some blue cheese tucked in the leaf.

It could be used as a condiment with a burger, or dappled in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich before frying it. Heck, it’d probably be good with cornbread and butter – does sorghum count as sugar? (Notice how I said “with,” not “in” – I think you’re entitled to drizzle it on top.) And I also discovered it’s really good dabbled on hard-cooked or deviled eggs, too.


Bacon Jam
Print Recipe
1 cup (240g)
Adapted from South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by Sean BrockIf you can't find sorghum locally, you can find it online from Muddy Pond or on Amazon. I think you could give this a go with a mixture of light molasses and honey or golden syrup, using about one-third molasses, two-thirds honey or golden syrup, to approximate sorghum. Rice syrup would also likely work, or dark maple syrup, with a little tinkering of the ratios. (While keeping the measurement the same as the sorghum syrup listed in the recipe.) If you do try one, let us know how they come out in the comments.
12-13 ounces (350g) bacon, diced into 1/4-inch (1cm) pieces
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2/3 cup (160ml) sorghum syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150ml) water or chicken stock
1/4 cup (60ml) sherry vinegar or good-quality apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1. Put half the bacon in a skillet and cook it over medium-to-low heat, stirring, until the bacon pieces are crisp. Depending on the bacon you use, you may need to add a drizzle of oil to the pan at the beginning to get things going.Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon pieces and drain them on a paper towel. Drain off excess oil from the pan, and fry the rest of the bacon the same way.
2. In a heavy-duty medium saucepan, heat the brown sugar and sorghum syrup, cook over medium heat, stirring only enough to make sure the ingredients are well-mixed. (Otherwise, you can swirl the pan.) Cook until the mixture darkens and thickens a bit, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add the water or stock and the vinegar. The mixture may steam and bubble up a bit, so be careful. Place the pan back on the heat and simmer until the syrup has been reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the bacon and the soy sauce to the saucepan and bring the jam mixture to a simmer again, until the mixture is thick and sticky. Remove from heat, add a few turns of black pepper, let cool to room temperature.

Note: If the jam cools and it's too thin, you can cook it a little longer. If it's too thick, you can add a splash of hot water or stock to thin it out.

Serving: Serve at room temperature. If refrigerated, let come to room temperature before serving.

Storage: According to the original recipe, the bacon jam will keep refrigerated 3 days. Mine has been in the refrigerator for a week and it still tastes great when I dip into it. I used water in mine but if you use chicken stock, it may not keep as well.

A delicious condiment using smoky bacon!

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47 comments

  • Jess Weaver
    November 4, 2019 4:47pm

    I’m a southerner with a father from New England and a mother imported directly from Germany, so I find this form of bacon jam appealing even though it’s highly unusual. All the bacon jam I’ve seen or been served here in the south is just as thick as any jam and doesn’t feature anything as fun-tasting as sorghum. I think a slightly more deconstructed and flavorful version like this would be a lot more popular with people who find the usual bacon jam entirely too sweet and firm. Reply

    • November 4, 2019 5:54pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for chiming in. This is pretty flavorful and not sure how you’d deconstruct it. Sean’s recipes are meant to highlight the unique cuisine and foods of the American south. I’m sure there are other versions of bacon jam but I found his version interesting and it worked well. (This one isn’t very firm and while there is a lot of sorghum in it, I didn’t find it very sweet as sorghum has a molasses-like flavor, which is a little bitter.) Reply

  • Jacqui
    November 4, 2019 5:22pm

    This sounds amazing! I’m not sure how easily I’ll find sorghum up here in Canada. Can I use maple syrup instead? Reply

    • November 4, 2019 5:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t try it with maple syrup but the consistency is different than sorghum as maple syrup is more liquid. So if you wanted to try it, you’d have to somehow tweak the recipe a bit. (The maple syrup may be a bit intense.) If you try it, let us know how much you use, and how it turns out. Reply

    • Julie
      November 4, 2019 5:53pm

      Yes indeed. I usually use maple syrup when I make bacon jam. [plus diced onion and a bit of garlic]. Also you might want to try strong coffee instead of water/stock & soy. Reply

      • November 4, 2019 7:11pm
        David Lebovitz

        Coffee sounds interesting to add (or chicory) – good idea! Reply

    • November 4, 2019 7:30pm

      I love bacon jam! The first time I had it was while traveling in Chicago when Chef Heather Terhune was still at a cozy spot called Sable. I hunted down a version of her recipe online and tweaked it a bit but use both coffee and maple syrup. (David, I hope it’s okay to leave the link here. I read your comment policy and believe it’s relevant. Sincere apologies if not.)
      https://www.kitchenandaway.com/story/bacon-jam Reply

  • renata
    November 4, 2019 5:24pm

    Can it be freezed? Reply

    • November 4, 2019 5:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know since I didn’t try it. If you do try it, let us know how it turns out. Reply

    • Julie
      November 4, 2019 5:53pm

      I store the bacon jam in small jelly jars and freeze it with no discernible loss of texture or flavor. Reply

      • Kelly Red
        November 4, 2019 7:47pm

        So do I. Since it only lasts a few days in the refrigerator I find smaller portions much more manageable. I use 4 oz. canning jars and have never tasted a difference. My recipe also uses coffee and onion. Reply

  • Cynthia Gibson
    November 4, 2019 5:38pm

    Hi David sounds like a great recipe for the holidays! Where do we buy American bacon in France? Thanks, Mrs. G in Uzes Reply

  • Margy
    November 4, 2019 5:41pm

    This is going in your next cookbook, right? Please. Reply

  • Helene Glass
    November 4, 2019 5:53pm

    DL
    In France, what do you use for bacon? I have tried multiple things – pls tell what you prefer.

    Keep on cookin’
    Helene Reply

    • Eric Yendall
      November 4, 2019 6:38pm

      Bonjour Helene.
      I suggest you make your own bacon using fresh pork bellies. Very easy to cure, and to smoke if you wish. Google it.
      Eric Reply

    • November 4, 2019 7:15pm
      David Lebovitz

      They’re listed in the post: Bacon is called either lard or poitrine fumé. It’s available in butcher shops, charcuteries, and in supermarchés. Often they are thick-cut as in France, bacon is used more of as a seasoning in dishes (like Beef bourguignon) so it’s not cooked crisp. Although it is in dishes like Salade frisée aux lardons, aka Salade Lyonnaise.

      I usually just buy it in slices from the butcher at the market and cut them into little pieces with a chef’s knife. Reply

  • Pattyk
    November 4, 2019 6:20pm

    I agree with using black coffee instead of water. Of course you pour sorghum over hot buttered cornbread, It’s delicious. Reply

  • Nancy
    November 4, 2019 6:29pm

    i’m a true Southerner, Virginia on one side and Georgia on the other. I’m surprised to admit I don’t actually know what sorghum is. We have always used Steen’s pure cane syrup in cooking. Nothing is better than a warmed piece of cornbread with cane syrup on it for breakfast. Is sorghum a form of molasses? Love your blog and your books! Reply

    • Greta
      November 7, 2019 9:52pm

      I was born in New Orleans and have lived in south Louisiana my whole life and I didn’t know what sorghum is either (I looked it up online today). Glad to know I’m not the only Southerner who loves Steen’s instead of sorghum. A taste test would be interesting… Reply

  • Caro
    November 4, 2019 6:48pm

    Is there a way to can this? Thinking the jam would make awesome Christmas gifts: nice change from cookies. Reply

    • Kelly Red
      November 4, 2019 7:50pm

      Yes you can but because it has meat in it you MUST use a pressure canner. NOT a pressure cooker and not hot water bath, neither one get hot enough for canning meat. I freeze my bacon jam. That’s much easier and still makes a nice gift. Reply

  • M. uni
    November 4, 2019 7:41pm

    I, too, have seen Southerners go apoplectic at the mere mention of sweet cornbread. This from people who drink sweet tea. I can feel my teeth crumbling just writing the words. I can’t imagine the reaction they would have had if they had been served sweet cornbread with chocolate chips in the now gone Canadian Pancake House. BTW it was delicious. Reply

    • BananaBirkLarsen
      November 5, 2019 7:27am

      Sweet tea! I’ve been in North Carolina for a year now and can’t deal with the tea. It tastes like tea bags brewed in simple syrup. A co-worker told me it should “taste like diabetes”. Reply

      • Martha Taccarino
        November 6, 2019 1:22am

        You can ask for a half and half mix of sweet and unsweet Martha in Raleigh Reply

        • BananaBirkLarsen
          November 11, 2019 11:53pm

          Half and half is still too sweet for me. I’ve had luck at fast food places etc. that have the sweet and unsweet dispensers. I fill the cup up with unsweet and then a 1 second pour of the sweet and it’s about right. Reply

  • Don
    November 4, 2019 7:55pm

    First… love your blog. You mention that the original writer doesn’t drink, but you thought Bourbon would be nice at the end, but the recipe includes sherry. I love the idea of sherry, but equally love the idea of bourbon. Going to make two batches, one with each. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Reply

    • November 4, 2019 8:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Don, I meant sherry vinegar (I clarified that in the recipe, although one could use sherry). I don’t know if he stopped using alcohol in recipes, but a shot of bourbon would be nice in this jam, if you’re so inclined. Yes…let us know how it works out. Reply

  • Kylie
    November 4, 2019 9:35pm

    This sound delicious, I am partial to a bacon marmalade sold in Canada by a large grocery chain that goes well with cheese or leftover roast pork sandwiches Reply

  • November 4, 2019 9:36pm

    Thanks for the link to the Sean Brock segment on Netflix David. That was sublime. Reply

  • RuthL
    November 4, 2019 10:29pm

    I grew up in the midwest, outside Kansas City, and sorghum was a staple in our house. We didn’t call it sorghum syrup, just sorghum. It came to the table whenever my mother made biscuits — Sunday mornings and the occasional “farm dinner” (sausage patties, milk gravy, fried apples, and biscuits). Here’s how it was used, at least by the children (our brave parents ate it straight): after you’ve eaten your eggs and sausage and scraped every bit of the yolks off your plate, you put a thick pat of butter on the plate. Then you drizzle a large spoonful of sorghum over the butter, and with your fork, mash it all together to make what we called goop. (Years later I recognized this was the down-home version of honey butter, a pallid relative.) I liked it best when the butter was still a little cool and so there were discernible flecks of it in the goop. Then you’d fish a hot biscuit out of the napkin-covered bread basket, pull it open and spread the steaming interior sides with sorghum butter. Depending on how much you loved sorghum, you either put the two halves back together, or you ate them individually (more sorghum butter that way). Sublime! After Sunday breakfast, we went to church, but we’d already been to paradise, transported by hot biscuits slathered in sorghum butter. Reply

    • November 4, 2019 11:18pm

      Thanks for sharing this ritual! Your description is so vivid, I feel like I’m there – at least I *want* to be there! Reply

  • Deborah
    November 5, 2019 4:13am

    What would you replace the sorghum with if I can’t find in Australia? Reply

  • Sanz
    November 5, 2019 4:50am

    Can I use molasses syrup instead of sorghum syrup? I have problem finding the latter locally, thank you. Reply

  • Martie
    November 5, 2019 7:51am

    I live in South Africa and I am going to try this Bacon Jam. Looks very nice to me. We have Lyles golden syrup. I wonder if I can use this instead of sorghum? Reply

  • November 5, 2019 1:15pm
    David Lebovitz

    Deborah, Sanz, Martie: I’ve only made it with sorghum and haven’t tried it with another liquid sweetener so can’t say without testing and trying it. Golden syrup would likely work. Molasses (or treacle) is pretty strong so if you want to try that, I would cut it with another liquid sweetener that’s milder. Reply

  • Kitchenbeard
    November 5, 2019 8:04pm

    I serve a version of this for catering jobs and it goes over really well. Reply

  • November 5, 2019 11:21pm

    As a Brit, both sorghum syrup and bacon jam are new concepts to me – however I am intrigued enough to give this a try! Reply

  • Lisa
    November 6, 2019 1:41am

    So I’m thinking you could probably freeze this since it doesn’t keep long? I’m thinking about making it in advance for a holiday party. Any thoughts? Reply

  • Vala
    November 6, 2019 8:43pm

    Made this today with some modifications. As I am trying to cook low carb I used stevia maple syrup, erythritol and jakon syrup. Also because I can never follow any directions I added red onion (not low carb I am afraid) finely chopped into the bacon fat with some butter. I guess I felt a bit bad about throwing out the bacon fat. Well long story short it tastes wonderful. I already have orders for jars for Christmas from friends. Thanks a million for this one. Reply

  • Patrick Wright
    November 7, 2019 4:46am

    Hi, David, and thanks for your always interesting articles and terrific photos. A question : Is Reader View still available on your Website? It’s disappeared from my screen, but I know I originally got to use it through a recommendation from you. Maybe you’ve decided to keep the advertising on screen rather than obliterating it. Of course, it’s entirely possible that its non-availability is a problem with my computer. Thanks.

    Pat Wright Reply

    • November 7, 2019 1:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t changed anything, although whatever browser or operating system you’re using may have changed. Reply

  • November 7, 2019 5:48pm

    I live in North Georgia and up the road apiece is Blairsville where they have a sorghum festival every year. You can watch it being made. Very interesting!

    Here’s what we like to do with it. Slice and fry leftover grits or polenta, serve it up and drizzle sorghum over. Mmm good!

    I think Lyle’s would be too light, molasses too dark as a substitute in bacon jam. The flavor is completely different, but maple syrup seems the best option to me.

    Long time reader, love your books and blog.

    Cheers, Mardell Reply

  • Cyndy
    November 9, 2019 8:55pm

    Our first fall in the Dordogne, we kept driving by field after field of a crop I couldn’t identify. I’ve since learned that it is sorghum, and SW France is the main area of France that cultivates it. I thought it was for animal feed. Now maybe I can find it in jarred form for making bacon jam. Reply

  • Brenda
    November 9, 2019 11:47pm

    Made this with maple syrup and it was great! Loved it with the Stilton/ endive combo but can’t wait to try it with a baked Brie! Reply

    • November 9, 2019 11:49pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for letting us know, and glad it was a hit! …and good idea on baked Brie, too : ) Reply

    • Helen in CA
      November 13, 2019 8:29am

      same amt of maple syrup as sorghum or???

      thanks Reply

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