Tuesday 31 July 2012

Bacon Masterclass with Eat Like A Girl

OK, the bacon thing has possibly gone a bit far. I never wanted to live in a world that produces bacon-flavoured toothpaste, personal lubricant or jellybeans. But as I discovered at Christmas, bacon jam is really delicious, so who am I to judge?

Niamh Shields, the originator of the whiskey bacon jam recipe I made at Christmas, has been running bacon masterclasses in London for a few months now, sharing some of her more off-the-wall bacon ideas. Given how good the bacon jam was, I decided to trust her and book in. Then discovered that the cooking classes were being held a 10 minute walk from my office, so it was terribly convenient, as well as intriguing.

Denhay streaky smoked bacon

Niamh is getting some help from Denhay bacon for these classes, so all the bacon we used was Denhay streaky, but we had a choice of smoked or unsmoked. I used smoked for all my dishes. I really don't see the point of unsmoked bacon!

We started off making bacon jam - not the whiskey version I'd made before. There were only 6 of us (she'd had a couple of cancellations) so we got plenty of personal attention. I really appreciated being told that it wasn't ready now but now it is - often when I am following recipes I'm not quite sure if I'm at the right stage or if it is looking and feeling as it should.

Bacon jam beginning its slow cook to unctuousness
Certainly Niamh encouraged us to let the jam cook a long way beyond the point where I would have pulled it off the heat.

The beginning of candied bacon

Then we made maple and tamarind candied bacon. This stuff should be illegal. We each candied a whole pack of bacon and I can tell you that less, considerably less, than a whole pack made it home with me. The complex sweet, tangy flavour of maple syrup, tamarind concentrate and a sprinkle of chipotle powder overlaying smokey, salty bacon is more-ish to say the least.

Maple, tamarind, chipotle candied bacon

We were discussing what you'd do with candied bacon - other than eat it by the handful - and I think my favourite suggestion was to crumble it over a Caesar salad. But I also think it'd be good on jacket potatoes with a little sour cream and chives, or on some home-made baked beans. Or in a really epic sandwich, on soft white buttered bread.

Fudge - really good to know how it is supposed to look
Then we made fudge. I've tried to make old-fashioned fudge before (I don't think my mother has recovered from the mess I made as a teenager making fudge and barley sugar with my friend Lis) but without much success. This is where being specifically told when it is right was so valuable. It was also really interesting to see that, with the same ingredients and the same recipe, every single one of us took a different amount of time to get to the same point. My stove-mate was feeling quite downhearted that her fudge took a good 10 minutes longer than mine to reach the right temperature to pull it off the heat.

At the end we beat some of the bacon jam into the fudge, creating an unexpectedly delicious confectionery. At least, I thought it was unexpectedly delicious; a few of the people who have tasted it have been less enthusiastic. I probably won't make bacon jam fudge again, but I will definitely make fudge again. It had the perfect ever-so-slightly crumbly texture that you look for in real dairy fudge. I'm looking forward to testing some different flavours. So that's Christmas presents sorted out!

Bacon jam, fudge and candied bacon. Only missing the bacon vodka
Finally we stood around drinking wine while Niamh made a batch of bacon vodka and distributed it to all of us. It needed a few days of infusing, so we didn't get to taste it then and there. It came home, where it will reappear in a perfect Sunday brunch bloody Mary. At some point. It's in the freezer right now.

Bacon jam, egg and tomato brunch sandwich
The class wasn't cheap, but it really was good value. Excellent facilities, top-notch ingredients and Niamh leading you through some interesting recipes made it very much worthwhile. Plus she gave first aid to anyone who found the super-sharp knives too challenging. It's not every day you can say you've been bandaged by a published author.


Suelle said...

The candied bacon sounds delicious, and worth the cost of the class alone; knowing how to make fudge properly now must have been an added bonus!

Hotly Spiced said...

I have never heard of bacon jam. What an interesting course. I don't think my mother has recovered from all the sweet things I used to bake as well. I used to make fudge and coconut ice and toffee etc. Quite a sticky mess! xx

Joanne said...

A bacon master class...now even as a vegetarian, that is something id like to see!

Mary Bergfeld said...

It sounds like an interesting class. Especially for bacon lovers :-). Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Bettina Douglas said...

That sounds like a fantastic range of flavours!

We could write a book on "how to" successfully make any number of our culinary disasters along with the cautionary tale.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Suelle - such a bonus! Fudge is quite tricky really!

Charlie - I love coconut ice! Haven't thought of that in years.

Joanne - I've heard that bacon is the achilles heel for many vegetarians.

Mary - it was! And interestingly, it was all women.

Mother - I would never have thought to put tamarind and chipotle together, even though they use quite a lot of tamarind in Mexican cooking.

Purabi Naha said...

WOWWWW....my mouth is watering to see so many kinds of bacon preparations. Bacon Jam sound very inviting!!! I am coming to your home for all these...

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Oh my pork, I want that candied bacon now!

grace said...

i would hop on a plane and head to the uk to take a class like that! LOVE candied bacon, and though i've never had bacon jam, i'm sure i'd inhale it, too. terrific post!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Purabi - the bacon jam is delicious.

Leafy - we had the rest of the candied bacon for lunch today. So crunchy and good!

Grace - you've got to try the bacon jam. It's awesome!

Debra Eliotseats said...

That definitely looks like top quality bacon. I have made bacon jam too but will check out that whiskey recipe you have previously posted. I can't get on the chocolate covered bacon, etc. bandwagon either. Personal lubricant?????? Oh my goodness.

Adrian (Food Rehab) said...

Woah! LOve how you candied the bacon with tamarind - one of my ultimate fav ingredients.

Angie's Recipes said...

my that sandwich looks heavenly with bacon jam!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Debra - the lube really is a step too far!

Adrian - tamarind really is lovely, isn't it?

Angie - thanks!

Bonnie said...

Mr. A goes crazy pants for bacon. He would love this!

Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Unknown said...

Bacon jam............wow! Sounds delcious and I'd love some on a burger or on bruschetta. Actually I can think of quite a few reasons to make this!


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