Tag Archives: gifts

Bacon Jam and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

It came to my attention last night that several things I thought to be universal are not.  My childhood experience of watching the Monkeys and having a grilled cheese sandwich and Campbell’s tomato soup are not everyone’s childhood memories, yes for many, but not for everyone.  I was blathering on and on about how great my grilled cheese sandwich was yesterday when I realized that the party to whom I was speaking had never actually made one.  Are there others out there who do not know the joy of the simple grilled cheese sandwich?  This cannot continue!!

And, for those of you who do share, to my mind, my commonplace culinary background, to pique your interest I offer you a twist upon your grilled cheese sandwich repertoire.

Bacon Jam.  Or Pig Jam as we are now calling it.

The addition of pig jam into any grilled cheese sandwich elevates it to a peak unlike the lofty air at Everest.  Or at least Annapurna.

For Christmas a dear dear friend S___ gave me three whole jars of bacon jam, and the first one is almost gone and I *have* been practicing a great deal of restraint, despite what you might have read here or on Twitter.

Mmmm, amazing

REC: Grilled Cheese with Pig Jam

2 slices of bread
butter
3 T soft goat cheese
1 T pig jam (see note)

First, place a skillet on the stove but do not turn on the burner.  One one slice of the bread, spread the pig jam.
Spread the first slice thickly with bacon jam
(sad to see how empty that jar is.)

For this sandwich yesterday I used a potato bread with oats, a grocery store staple and a departure from my usual 29,000 grain bread (but it was on sale!).

On the other slice of bread, spread the goat cheese.
And then spread the second slice with goat cheese

My cheese was rather cold and therefore crumbly. However, it really doesn’t matter. If you would prefer the more traditional cheddar cheese, be sure the slices are nice and thick and that the entire piece of bread is covered but no cheese hangs over the edge.

Place the bacon-spread slice on top of the cheese spread slice, and then generously butter the top of the bread thusly.
Put the bacon jam spread side on top of the cheese

I like unsalted butter, but that’s just me. Please do not use margarine or other spreads. If you cannot handle a little butter then just don’t make this sandwich… Unless you are using duck fat, hmmm, let me think about that!!

Place the sandwich in the pan, buttered side down, and turn on the heat to medium. Slowly the pan will heat, melting the butter under the bread and toasting to a perfect golden brown. Meanwhile, butter the top of the sandwich.

New Message

As you can see in this picture a few crumbs of the goat cheese slid out when I placed the sandwich in the pan. I just tucked them back inside before buttering the top. Also, in the corner of the picture you can see my pot of tomato soup, which I had with my sandwich.

When the bottom of the sandwich was crispy and browned, I flipped it over and browned the other side, which takes just a minute or two.
Flip the sandwich over to toast the other side

Then, onto a plate and slice it into quarters.
Cut the toasted sandwich in quarters

I tipped up one quarter so you can see the oozy cheese and the rich tangy pig jam. Here is another qualifier of my childhood: the sandwich has to be cut into triangles rather than into squares. Which way do you like your sandwich cut?  My rationale back then, and today, is that the pointy ends are better for dunking into the tomato soup. And that is what it is all about, the dunking.

Now, a word about the pig jam.

A marvelous place in Seattle called Skillet has been making this concoction for a few years. I heard about it a few years back and have been dying to try it and it was everything and more I had hope for. Rich, tangy, bacony, oniony… It’s hard to now imagine life without bacon jam.

A fun anecdote, the other day a friend was over and I showed her the pig jam and we stood there in the kitchen, not speaking but just making nom nom noises and crunching the pig jam on baked pita crackers.  I was fortunate to be on Twitter when @meatmaven shared her own recipe.  What a kind heart!  What generosity!  What an amazing recipe!!  Thank you, Tatiana, from the bottom of my heart.  Here is what she tweeted:

1/2lb good bacon, chop & cook slow on lowest heat, at least 30min, til brown but not crispy. Remove bacon, reserve.

add 4 L red onions, diced, to bacon fat. Cook on lowest heat at least 1 hour. Chop bacon in cuisinart, add back to reduced onions.

Add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper. Spread on anything (or everything). Store in fridge if there’s any left.

I casually mentioned I had a recipe to my pal for pig jam and with a slight bit of pleading (well, none actually!), I emailed these three tweets to her.  I adore her for promptly going home and making some.  The next day we went marketing together.  We conspired to have a taste test, so I brought along the pita chips and my jar of bacon jam and she brought her jar with a fork.  We sat in the parking lot, vulching for the next open spot, eating bacon jam out of her jar and my jar and discussing in fine detail the differences between home made and Skillet made, like winemakers of old over a barrel of fine Cabernet.

The world works in mysterious ways and perhaps it was no accident that we had to wait at least 20 minutes for a parking space.  But the delay afforded us ample opportunity for our taste test and to consume most of the bacon jam in both pots.  For a moment I felt like offering some to the gal in the car behind us, who was waiting for a second spot to open up, but we were covered in crumbs, knitting projects in various stages and it just didn’t feel like the right time to effect an introduction.

My friend has a tale of her own to tell about her pig jam and I will be sure let you know when it is ready on our alternate blog site.

I strongly encourage you to either buy or make some pig jam and to make a sandwich promptly.  Trust me, it will change your feelings about grilled cheese sandwiches forever…

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Happiness is….

…knowing my family still loves me when I…

Overbaked the Christmas shortbreads:
Hard as a rock shortbread

(but they were great dunked in a cup of hot coffee)

Knitted the Christmas gift socks too long:
Christmas socks are too large. The markers show where the toe should be

(but they can be disassembled and made shorter; the pink markers show where the toe *should* be.)

Overcooked the roast:
Over cooked prime rib. CRAP!

(but it was seasoned perfectly and still very tender and juicy)

Spilled gravy all over the tablecloth:
Gravy on the tablecloth

(hoping the stains will wash out)

The Charlotte à la Framboise turned an odd shade of puce on the outside:
...but it is strangely puce from this side

The charlotte looks good from this angle

(but the inside was the perfect pink and it tasted fantastic)

The orange cornmeal cake overflowed from the pan, burned and filled the house with smoke:
Somewhere in there is a cake

(yes, there is a cake in there somewhere!  But what was left baked well and the orange flavor was fantastic)

Sigh….

Despite all of these boo boos, gaffs and errors, my family still loves me and thinks I am great.

My self-confidence has been dinged somewhat, though. Humbled and feeling rather inadequate, I retreated to the chair next to the Christmas tree, hoisted my strained ankle onto the ottoman and commenced licking my wounds by knitting a sock:

At least I can still do this…
Pretty sock

(pattern: Pyroclastic by Marlowe Crawford from Knitty Winter ’09; yarn: Dream in Color, Starry sock weight with silver in Fairy Berry)

As I’m plodding along, my dad comes into the room, gives me a once over and recites:

“Twinkle, twinkle little star,
I went for a ride in his car.
What happened then, I’m not admittin’
but what I’m knitting ain’t for Britian!”

Peals of laughter and a sodden tissue later, I settle back to my knitting and he to his puzzles. I love my family! This was the best Christmas ever…

Countdown to Christmas

Christmas is so close but every year it’s the same frisson of surprise right about now: Christmas is just around the corner!

My family all moved away from the City so Christmas has a dimension that’s new to me but familiar to many. Travel. Not only do I have to make all the usual preparations but I have to do them early so that I can get up to the country a few days before Christmas. Aaack! Where does the time go?

This year is a little different, however. Being on a strict budget with little room for necessities, let alone generous gifts, I have been dipping into my well of creativity to help make this a special Christmas for my loved ones.

This summer I started a variety of knitting projects to go under the tree. Fortunately for said budget the necessary yarn for these projects were already reposing in my stash. Each family member is receiving a knitted item lovingly made by me. The fun thing about knitting for someone else is that with each stitch I create I am thinking about the recipient. I think about how much fun I am having making the gift for them, how pretty or handsome the item is, how soft and plushy, the lovely yarn texture and its color, and how much they will enjoy wearing it.

The same holds true for the food items I make every year. It wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t make shortbread. The recipe was kindly given to me by Margaret Golbransen, my dear sister-in-law’s delightful mom. The recipe is from Margaret’s great-great-Aunt Violet in Scotland, and not only is it a symbol of the true delights of certain aspects of Scottish cuisine, but a most delicious, addictive cookie. Una makes it too every Christmas for our dad, and of course hers is so much better than mine, but nonetheless I don’t believe I would be allowed in the door without bringing some carefully wrapped containers of these cookies.

For years my repertoire of Christmas goodies has shifted like the sands of time. One year I baked enormous braids of cinnamon bread, homemade chocolate truffles with various fruity ganache centers, candied or spiced nuts, peanut brittle, English toffee, miniature loaves of cranberry lemon bread, candied ginger and pear breads, cheddar-beer-bacon loafs, or my favorite, the syrup soaked Meyer lemon breads.

This time last year I did not make any of the food gifts I usually do. mUm was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes right before Thanksgiving, which came as quite a shock to us all. She was not supposed to have any sugars or carbohydrates of any kind and that is a challenge any day, let alone during the holidays. Naturally, I didn’t want to seem unfeeling and dole out food gifts to everyone and leave her out, nor give something she couldn’t or shouldn’t have while she was struggling with complying with a new stringent food plan. Then, the unthinkable happened. Shortly after Thanksgiving her 2nd ever mammogram had an area of concern, and on Christmas Eve the doctor met with her to say she had breast cancer. Please note the tense of that verb, *had*. It took a *lot* of persuading on our part and of her friends to convince her to accept the treatment plan. We are all so grateful she did have the surgery and all subsequent tests (knock on wood) show she is cancer free. Santa gave us the greatest gift last year, and that is the future of many more Christmases with her. But until her surgery and followup exams and tests and this and that it was mid-March and no one felt very festive last Christmas. It was a sombering few months, sadly shared by far too many families. I feel like we were the lucky ones, and feel the joy and yet a touch of guilt for so many have lost loved ones in just the same way. Is it selfish to feel so happy? I hope not.

So this year, we are feeling terrifically joyous to be together. mUm says that if she has us all under one roof we could walk in with nothing but lint in our pockets and she would be delirious with the joy of the season. But I want to arrive with a few goodies in tow, not necessarily the sugar/carb fest of years past but fun nonetheless. This year we celebrate!

But what to bring? The element of travel makes these gifts more complex. there is the issue of freshness, breakage and mostly the grocery budget. I have been squirelling away pantry items in anticipation of this budget shortfall. I found a source for inexpensive yet organic sweet cream butter. I found 2-for-1 sales on my favorite brand of flour and sugar. My new contacts from blogging have gifted me with a lovely stash of chocolate and a variety of kitchen swag that I will regift. I am delighted to say that I will be making shortbread this year and perhaps some truffles too. I know this will please my family, and I will feel like I have contributed to the spirit of Christmas by having a few packages to place under the Christmas tree.

It isn’t the Christmas I wanted to give them but this holiday isn’t about the gifts. It’s about that we are all together, healthy, and it’s about the love. I have plenty of that in abundance to share.