Smoke fascinates me. I marvel at its ability to mingle, marry, permeate the substrate, flesh, core of food, intermingling and becoming so inextricably linked to it that no amount of cooking, soaking, curing will remove it. Smoke is permanent, lasting, a keeper.
I am musing about this as my kitchen is this very moment perfumed by the fog of a home smoking effort gone awry. My smoke alarm is intermittently chirping its protest and any hope of me having a future as a distillery kilnsman looks in grave doubt.
We are fortunate at Mulligan’s to be supplied by the much more experienced smoker and butcher TJ Crowe. His smoke profile, born of local wood chips is rough hewn, earthy, guttural. It doesn’t mess about. No elegant whisps or hints of ephemeral char here. It is punchy, delicious and in your face. I soften it to pair with Monkey Shoulder by turning it into a jam studded with crushed plums, their citrus tartness balances the sweet prevailing smoke and echo the soft citrus of the whiskey.
I used this recipe at a recent pairing in London at Whisky Live. We also serve it on the menu at L. Mulligan. Grocer and plan to sell it in our grocery section on a Friday and Saturday. It was also published in a recent article I wrote for Whisky Magazine.
Bacon and Plum Jam
2L pot (bigger is fine, smaller will result in an unholy mess)
Food processor (optional)
500g Smoked bacon
1 small onion, the ones we get from the fruit market are monsters, about 300g is plenty
5 cloves of garlic
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
125mL coffee (I use french press but instant is grand also)
20mL (4 teaspoons) honey
15mL (3 teaspoons) balsamic vinegar
15mL (3 teaspoons) dijon mustard
In the meantime dice the onions finely, and mince the garlic. It is fine to use a microplane grater for the garlic if you like. It can be our wee secret. Don’t bother with a garlic press, they are useless and you lose half your clove.
Transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl using a slotted spoon, draining off most of the drippings.
Saute the onion and garlic cloves in the remaining drippings for 15-25 minutes, until soft and starting to turn golden. Do not scrimp on the onion cooking time, it takes time and is adding flavour. Keep an eye on them and turn down the heat if the edges are turning brown too quickly. We are aiming for gold, not char.
In the meantime stone and dice the plums and set aside. Have a dram, the onions are probably still softening.
Once the onions and garlic are a beautiful burnished gold, return the bacon to the pan, along with the diced plums.
Add the brown sugar, coffee, honey, vinegar and mustard and give everything a good old mix with a wooden spoon.
Cook over medium heat for half an hour, or until deep golden and thickened to the consistency of jam.
Remove from heat and cool, at this stage you can pulse it in the food processor, or leave it chunky. Do not over process. It should retain a reassuring bacon appearance.
Serve cold on toast, or warm with a fried egg, or as I eat it with Vanilla Sugar on Toast and with a healthy glug of Monkey Shoulder on the side.