Bacon and Ale Jam

Bacon and Ale Jam
Bacon jam has been done and done.  I’ve even done it and I’m always the last one to catch onto anything.  But that doesn’t mean that just because the fad is dusty that it has become any less relevant.  Bacon jam is excellent and I’ve been missing it in my fridge these past few months ever since my obsession waned.  Oh, I’ve had my bacon salt to keep me going but there is nothing like a tablespoon of bacon jam in a bolognaise or gravy to add the patented smoky sweetness.  This time round I also ate it slathered on toast with peanut butter, it was particularly decadent and incredibly delicious.

Bacon and Ale Jam  |  Stroud Green LarderSince I’m perfectly happy with my tried and tested bacon jam recipe from last year I thought I would do something different to keep it interesting so I’ve Britished it up a bit.  The bacon jam I’m used to has the delightful notes of intense black coffee, smoky chipotle in adobo and American Bourbon.  This time round though I wanted to celebrate the kind of lovely local ingredients which we have on our doorstep; the London ale which we are drinking an abundance of at the moment whilst relaxing in the garden and the local honey I just picked up from the farmer’s market.  Imbued with these comforting and familiar ingredients, spiced lightly with mace and ginger and the subtle heat of English mustard, the jam works wonderfully.  It is a natural accompaniment to cheese and crackers and the picnic perfect wensleydale scones which I am posting about tomorrow.

Bacon jam is supposed to keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge but I have found that it lasts much longer, that is if you can resist.  This pot lasted about 2 days.

Bacon and Ale Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder

Bacon and Ale Jam
Makes about 500ml

300g smoked streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
60ml cider vinegar
60g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
125ml Ale
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
⅛ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground mace

Put the bacon in a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the bacon really crisps up, stirring all the while to keep it from sticking. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and cook on a very low heat. After 5 mins add the garlic then continue cooking until the onion begins to caramelise, it should take around 20 mins.
Pour in the vinegar to deglaze the pan.
Add the bacon back in, as well as the sugar, honey, ale, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, ginger, mace and some black pepper.
The heat should be on the very lowest setting and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until reduced to a thick and sticky jam.
When it’s ready, turn off the heat and pour into a sterlised jar. Keep the jam in the fridge ready for whenever you need it.

Goats Cheese, Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake
Last week we were treated to a wonderful talk on bees and beekeeping at our WI meeting.  I learnt basic bee stuff in Biology back in the day but I don’t remember them being this fascinating.  They are like little machines, programmed to do their own special job within their ecosystem.  If something breaks down in the chain then they intuitively follow through with a back-up plan, for instance if the queen dies then they just automatically make another by feeding one of the cells solely with royal jelly rather than honey and pollen.  Nature really has it in for the honey bee though and they are constantly under threat by all sorts of diseases and mite infestations.

After the talk we were encouraged to try a selection of local honey.  In the past I have never been the greatest honey monster, it always just seemed like sweet goop.  However, this honey isn’t like your Sainsburys Basic brand, surprise surpise. Instead it is so florally fragrant, you can almost see the wildflowers dancing about in the breeze and the pots of honey from two different producers had completely different tastes.  The joy of good ingredients is that they can speak directly to you and after my second taste of the honey I immediately imagined this delicate cheesecake sweetened only by the honey bouquet.

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

London honey is considered a particular delicacy would you believe due to the utter variety of flowers that the bees have access to.  It’s not cheap as the batches are made by independent beekeepers, but see if you can pick some local honey at a farmers market as it is worth it and you will be supporting your neighbourhood honey bee.  This honey should not be relegated to merely toast or crumpets, although almost certainly would pep up breakfast time no end, but use it in delicate dressings on your salad leaves, drizzled on top of a light vanilla ice cream or do what I’ve done below and create a bit of an event out of it.

If you don’t have a food processor, then you can easily prepare the digestive base by hand by placing the biscuits in a plastic food bag, tying the end off so the crumbs don’t escape and giving them a good bash with something heavy, like a rolling pin.  It’s really very satisfying.

This cheesecake would be perfect at the end of a meal in lieu of a cheese course, it’s not entirely sweet or savoury but steals pleasurably from both camps.

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

Goats Cheese, Honey and Thyme Cheesecake
Serves around 8 people

175g digestives
75g unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
375g soft goats cheese
150ml british wildflower honey
150g sour cream or crème fraiche
3 eggs
1 tsp thyme leaves
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
Extra honey to drizzle

  1. In a food processor whizz up the digestive biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs and then pour in the melted butter until completely combined.
  2. Press into an 18cm loose-bottomed cake tin and place in the fridge for 15 mins. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  3. Then place the digestive base in the oven to bake for 15 mins.
  4. While it’s baking, beat the goats cheese and the honey in a large bowl until smooth.
  5. Add the crème fraiche and beat again until smooth.
  6. Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
  7. Add the thyme leaves, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and stir in until everything is well incorporated.
  8. Pour the batter on top of the biscuit base and bake for 40 mins until the top has set but still has a little wobble in the centre.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to come to room temperature in the tin. Then transfer to the fridge and leave to chill for at least 4 hours.
  10. Remove from the tin and drizzle with honey before serving.