Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Jam

I am in possession of something that is life changing. I have a jar of Bacon Jam. BACON JAM. Just look at those two words. It sounds intriguing and insane at the same time. It sounds impossible, but I have some. What’s more, I made it myself and now can have it any time I wish. This may be a problem.

When something new comes on the food scene, you start hearing little mentions of it on the food websites. I can’t remember exactly who mentioned it first, but I think it was on eGullet. Being a fan of all things porcine, I perked up and Googled it. It seems that Bacon Jam was the brainchild of a diner called Skillet Street Food in Seattle. Yes, Seattle. I know, it seems weird to me, too. Salmon jam? Sure. Coffee jam? Maybe. But Bacon Jam? Shouldn’t the birthplace of Bacon Jam be somewhere in Mississippi or Arkansas? Anyway, there it was. You could order an 8 oz. jar…for FOURTEEN DOLLARS!!! Plus S&H, of course. That seemed a little excessive to me. So I kind of dropped it, but it never left the back of my mind.

Recently on eGullet ‘kayb’ has been making it and using it on all kinds of things. When I whined about wanting some, she kindly posted the recipe. Then my friend (and fellow eG’er) Jerry did a food blog last week and HE made some – with accompanying pictures! That sent me right over the edge. I had to have some. We didn’t have any of our favorite Benton’s bacon, so we went to the Fresh Market and got some Nueske’s. (By the way – Benton’s bacon is astoundingly good bacon, the best we’ve ever had. We usually order multiple pounds when we get it, but they are a little slow to deliver. They’ve been featured in a lot of food magazines and websites and are seemingly overwhelmed with orders. It can take up to a month to get an order – so we run short sometimes.)

You start by frying a pound of bacon (all recipes should start with this instruction):

It should be crisp on the edges, but still soft – because you are going to be doing a LOT more with it:


Then you set it aside and dump in some sliced onions and brown sugar:

Cook until the magic happens:

You knew where I was going with this, didn’t you?

Then it REALLY gets good: you add garlic, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, chipotle powder (I’m a big sissy – so I used ancho chile powder) and paprika:

The smell in my kitchen at this point is amazing – a heady spicy bacon fragrance. Dogs are scratching at my back door. Neighbors are leaning out of their windows. Low flying helicopters.

Now the jamminess starts. Dump the bacon back into the onion mixture – add coffee, apple cider vinegar, bourbon (I’ve confessed before to losing my G.R.I.T.S. card due to the fact that I HATE bourbon – I used apple juice, but cider would be better), maple syrup and hot sauce:

Then it simmers – for TWO HOURS. That fragrance I mentioned? It gets STRONGER – richer and deeper. I think the air in my house actually THICKENED.

After the simmering:

At this point, I was eating it from a spoon. But to actually finish The Jam, you give it a ride in the food processor:

Bacon Jam. Mission Accomplished (for real, this time).

The Jam is best served warm. Here’s one way to serve Bacon Jam:

That’s just a Sister Shubert roll tarted up with butter, Cheddar and chives. Jerry makes these gorgeous little cheese/herb biscuit poppers to slather with The Jam, but this was a Monday night and I barely manage to brush my teeth Monday evenings. We are thinking Bacon Jam and sunny side up egg breakfast pizza. How about The Jam brushed on burgers? Or breakfast bruschetta with The Jam and tomato preserves. Or Bacon Jam caramel corn (Mr. Kim boggled at that one). The possibilities are truly endless.

If you want to try it for yourself (and if you don’t, you may need a check up), you can find the entire recipe here.

I’m so enamored, that I’m making up songs about this stuff:
Bacon Jam, Bacon Jam, I just love old Bacon Jam,
Love my Paw, Love my Mam,
But I just love old Bacon Jam.

(apologies to Roger Miller)
This, I confess is nothing new. It is, in fact, a Shook family foible. We make up songs about everything we love – dogs, cats, one another and now BACON JAM.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day Six – England/Paris Trip – More Cotswolds Charm

I'm sorry it's taken so long to post this one. If I keep taking so long to get this trip reported, I'll have to break for Christmas and New Years! Writing takes a long time with composing and sweating over each word, then picking out the pictures and getting them uploaded (a MAJOR bitch). I'm also trying to post my food reports over at eGullet in a timely manor. Today I was out most of the day visiting with old pals. So here we go - possibly my longest post ever (certainly the most pictures I've ever had to upload!). Mr. Kim's comments in italics.

Thursday, May 19th
We had a full day scheduled and didn’t want to waste a minute – so you would have thought that we’d have rushed out the door the second we were dressed. But there was something about the cottage and the quietness of the village that forbade rushing and bustling.

Before we left the States, I told myself that I needed to spend this entire vacation enjoying what we were doing when we were doing it – to stay ‘in the moment’ to use an execrable expression. No worrying about being late, or lost; no fretting about what comes next. No getting aggravated at little setbacks, or even big ones. This was going to be difficult for me, I thought. I am all about worry and fret and impatience. But, with the help of being in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, I really did manage it. There were lots of plans that didn’t come to fruition, lots of things that we didn’t see, of course. But I honestly didn’t have one single serious regret the entire time. We ‘wasted’ a lot of time, in the sense that we did a lot of aimless wandering. But not one moment was truly wasted. The fact that every 5 minutes I said or thought, “I’m in ENGLAND” attests to that. The sense of quiet exultance permeated the whole trip for me.

We really tried to pack light (could have gone even lighter), so by this time we needed to do laundry. The cottage had a very new washer and dryer. I’d been warned by Craig that English washer and dryers take an interminable amount of time, so I started a load before we went to bed the night before and put them in the dryer as soon as we got up. There was an instruction booklet with very clear directions that seemed to indicate that you could dry things for up to 7 hours. That is not a typo. SEVEN HOURS. !!!!!!!! I figured that I must be reading it wrong and set it for an hour at the highest heat and went off to make breakfast and get ready for the day. Now in the States, dryers energetically spin the clothes around, getting them all fluffy while they dry. This dryer (and Craig’s too) lazily flopped the clothes for a couple of minutes and then let them sit for a few more before starting the whole dilatory process again. At the end of the hour, I couldn’t detect any progress. Not even to my silky underthings that are practically dry at the end of the spin cycle in the washer. I turned it on for another hour and the heavier things still needed more drying when we got home that evening. When we finally got them out – dry – before we went to bed they looked like someone had balled them up and left them out in the sun to dry. Wrinkled? Lord have mercy. I decided that English people must either spend all of their disposable income on dry cleaners or spend all of their free time ironing. And what a LOVELY way to do spend your free time it is, too!

So, anyway, breakfast was some more of that lovely bacon on toast. We then hit the road for Chipping Campden.

On the way to Chipping Campden:

I should say here that the place and pub names in England equally charmed and amused us. And, of course, being who we are (as well as being heavily influenced by Bill Bryson), we had to come up with our own names – Buggering Bishop, Bourbon-on-the-Rocks, etc., etc. Which brings me to Mr. Kim’s alternate names for Chipping Campden. Chipping Campden is absolutely gorgeous and charming, as you will see. But….there was an odd, unpleasant odor in the air when we were there. While I was waiting on the High street for Mr. Kim to park the car I noticed it. There was a young man painting at the next building and I assumed that it was his paint. But as we wandered around, it was pretty much everywhere. That will explain Mr. Kim’s sobriquets – Ass on Swine and Stink on Shite. I apologize to the citizens of Chipping Campden, the Cotswolds and the entire United Kingdom. We are silly and tend to bestow nicknames rather liberally. It was weird, but certainly didn’t interfere with our sightseeing. Truly, some of the prettiest flowers and most charming vistas were to be found here.

This is really a gorgeous village with a picture perfect High street. Beautiful Cotswold stone buildings, bakeries, shops, intriguing little alleys everywhere:

But, the Hokey COKEY???:

St. James’ Church is gorgeous and right on the edge of lovely fields:

In the churchyard, we fell into conversation with some folks who were visiting from Milwaukee. They were doing almost exactly the same tour as us, only the other direction. They had just been in Winchester and Salisbury and were on their way to Oxford and London.

Just next to the church, these ruins and lodges with a gate screen are all that remain of what must have been a magnificent manor house – Campden House, built early in the 17th century. It was apparently burned by Royalist troops to prevent it being taken by Parliamentarians during the Civil War in 1645:

Not sure what this is – it was over in the grounds of Campden House:

Chipping Campden Flowers:

Some of the flower pictures were taken in two lovely secluded little gardens that we happened upon. One was the Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden just around the corner from the church. Born in Chipping Campden, he was a famous ‘plant hunter’ who worked for Botanical Gardens in England (including Kew) and even in the US. This tiny walled garden is cool and shaded with benches for peaceful, quiet visits:

The other garden ran out the back of a restaurant on the High street. There was no sign directing us, we just wandered back and found this charming garden walk:

More Chipping Campden:

Here’s another of my ‘How very English’ pictures (taken in the car park) – I loved the horse blanket, the L&M’s (do they even sell those here still?) and the half-eaten crumpet on a REAL china plate:

Next up were the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. It’s best to talk about them together because Upper Slaughter is so incredibly tiny. It is saved from being a hamlet only by the presence of St. Peter’s church (did YOU know that a hamlet is smaller than a village and has no church??? Amazing what you can learn on the internet). It has a church, a gorgeous manor house/hotel and about a dozen houses. Oh, and a beautiful pastoral walk through sheep meadows and fields by the River Eye to Lower Slaughter. We drove into Upper Slaughter from Chipping Campden and before we could turn around, we were out of it. A of picture of Upper Slaughter that I particularly love:

We parked the car in Upper Slaughter (seemed to be plenty of places to park, too!) and walked a section of The Great Cotswold Ramble. Modest, as far as distance (1 mile each direction) and gentle (no big hills – yay) to Lower Slaughter. This is a public footpath – a topic worth its own post. There is a whole network of these paths all over the country – most of them hundreds of years old. They must, by law, be kept open and available to walkers and sometimes horse riders. And use them they do. Everywhere we went you could see little specks toiling up and down the far hills and valleys. In the Chipping Campden post office we listened to a young man and an elderly lady (late 70’s probably) comparing notes of what sounded like a pretty strenuous trek. Even the young man she was advising seemed impressed when she indicated she had completed a 100 mile walk through the area he was asking about, although it wasn’t clear when or over how many trips. It sounded like she’d done it fairly recently. Speaking of the elderly. This is an ACTUAL road sign in England:

The first time I saw it, my mouth hung open in shock. No WAY would that sign exist in the US. I mean SERIOUSLY??? Bent over with sticks? But don’t they look LOVELY?

Sorry to digress. The footpath to Lower Slaughter was truly one of the best parts of our trip. Beautiful, calming and quiet – it slips back and forth between fields and the river side.

Some friendly townsfolk:

Along the paths there are clever little swinging gates that allow passing, but prevent livestock from wandering into places they shouldn’t. Here’s one that I found touching:

We saw these humble little plaques commemorating that other royal wedding many places. Tiny villages wanting to do their part in the celebrating of that joyful and hopeful event.

This is the beginning of Lower Slaughter:

where we had lunch at The River CafĂ©. The place is a combination gift shop, ice cream parlour, restaurant and museum. Other than the two manor house hotels, it seems to be the only commercial place in the village. And therein lies a juicy-gossipy story! Apparently, that’s the way the locals want it. The owner, a jazz singer from London is not a popular fellow in Lower Slaughter, it seems. I did some Googling and found a news story that told about the villagers’ resistance to extra car and bus parking, public restrooms and a tourist information centre. One of those ‘louts from outside muscling in to the village to make a buck’ stories. This article was dated 1999 and they must have gotten their way, because I don’t think any of those things exist still. And you know what? Good for them. They have something precious – why turn their gorgeous village into Disney on the River Eye? More villages should be that vigilant. I note that this lack of desire for tourism doesn’t keep the locals from working in the few tourist friendly places that exist. Although even without knowing this story I had noted that the shopkeep in the Mill gift shop was the least welcoming soul I met in any shop in England. That said, we very much enjoyed our delicious lunch at the Old Mill:

Nice baguette sandwiches with Cheddar and Pickle (not dill or sweet, but a delicious chutney-like spread). And we liked the ice cream cone afterwards. AND I found a book to buy at the gift shop – a mystery set in Lower Slaughter! The perfect souvenir for me.

Lower Slaughter is much bigger than Upper Slaughter with a beautiful church, TWO manor house hotels and lovely riverside homes:

Lower Slaughter was where we started noticing what we began calling “The Haunting of the Doves”. I was paying attention (because I’m weird) and the very first English animal I saw was a pigeon. I was quite disappointed actually; I was hoping for a fox or a sheep or a pheasant (something very English) - all of which we did see, we just saw the pigeon first. We realized that virtually from the moment we set foot in England, we’d never NOT heard the cooing of pigeons/doves. From then on, it was the same. EVERYWHERE we went those doves cooed at us. Mr. Kim was a little spooked, but I thought it was lovely.

Sorry, sidetracked again. We ended up getting in late to our final destination that day – Bourton-on-the-Water (the inspiration for Mr. Kim’s “Bourbon-on-the-Rocks, of course). We wandered the street beside the River Windrush (how’s that for a name?), peeking into closed shops and down side streets.

We did manage to find a kitchen ware shop that was open (how lucky am I?). I am in love with English tea towels and they had a fantastic assortment. I managed to resist, because they also had a huge assortment of something that I intended to buy since before we left home: a tea tray. Have you ever tried to find a nice, big tea tray in the US? Almost impossible. My old wooden one was looking mighty raggedy. I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from – flowers, birds, insects, gingham, chintz, polka dots, hearts. In every style imaginable – vintage, ‘mod’, patriotic. I chose cupcakes – with a checked pink border (of COURSE I did).

We went ‘home’ via Cirencester (that to which all roads lead) and stopped at The Black Horse pub for dinner. Pork and Hereford cider hot pot for me and steak and chips for Mr. Kim. We were tired puppies and glad to get back to the cottage - me to start the dryer again and fold clothes and Mr. Kim to sample some more tea.