Crock Pot Madness: Bourbon Bacon Jam and Spiced Apple Butter

The winter holidays are a lovely time of year, and personally, when the weather turns frightful, I turn to my crock pot slow cooker. I love it for everything. It’s simply the best and easiest way to make a chili or soup (try my awesome smoked chicken posole) or to slow-cook a nice piece of meat (try this yummy Korean BBQ pork). But don’t stop there.

This year, with a few tiny exceptions, my holiday gifts to friends and family will be homemade, and I will be gifting many of the same dishes I plan to trade at the San Diego Food Swap this weekend.

However, I do not plan to be standing over a hot stove.

Once again, my crock pot saves the day. Check out these two easy recipes for making delicious and easily gift-able homemade goodies.

Bourbon Bacon Jam

(I adapted this recipe from Evil Shenanigans … by adding more bourbon, doubling the volume of the recipe, omitting the coffee and making it less hot. Not to be confused with this amazing, smoky and spicy Bacon Chipotle Jam.)

  • 3 lbs. chopped bacon
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup good quality bourbon
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup

Render the bacon in a large stockpot and add chopped onions and garlic. Cook on medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes, until bacon is rendered and vegetables are a little tender.

Transfer everything to your crock pot (including all the bacon grease at the bottom of the pot) and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on high for about an hour, then take the lid off and let it cook on high for about another 2-3 hours, until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Taste often and add more or less spice according to your preference.

When it’s ready, transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender in the crock pot to break the mixture down to a chunky spread. Pour into sterilized jars and keep refrigerated (this is not safe for canning).

Spiced Apple Butter

(This is a super-simple and extremely delicious recipe. You can also vary this recipe by adding pumpkin and making pumpkin-apple butter, or pears or plums.)

I like to mix up different types of apples for lots of flavor.

  • about 3 lbs. apples, mixed types, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. allspice

Chop apples and add to your crock pot with brown sugar and spices, and place on high setting. Cook for about 2-2 1/2 hours, until the apples are tender. Mash up the apples with a potato masher or immersion blender.

This has a lovely seasonal flavor, but you can make it easily all year round. It’s delicious on toast, biscuits, pancakes and more. It’s also safe for water bath canning. Enjoy!

Bacon Jam Three Ways

bacon jam recipe card


Bacon Jam is one of my favorite creations, and it’s one of the easiest and most popular dishes I’ve ever made. The recipe I got from Martha Stewart is made with strong coffee, brown sugar, and maple syrup, and is delicious … it’s made in a slow cooker so there’s so much depth of flavor, it’s good on anything.

My friend Belinda and I are participants in (and original starting members of) the San Diego Food Swap, a monthly meeting where we all get together and share our jams, pickles, salsas, chutneys, soups, breads, cakes, cookies, fruits, vegetables  … and everything. We meet on the third Saturday of every month so we decided to skip the month of November to let people concentrate on Thanksgiving. Luckily we were invited to a swap just north of San Diego, and of course, we wanted to impress them, so naturally, bacon jam was a great choice.

Bacon Chipotle Jam

  • 3 lbs. bacon (chunks and end pieces are best)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • head of garlic, roasted
  • 1 chunk of “Abuelita” brand Mexican chocolate
  • 1 cone of piloncillo brown sugar (you’ll have to break it up)
  • 1 can of chipotles in adobo
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar is best)
  • 2-3 cups strong coffee
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

Render the bacon with the sliced onions in a large saucepan. Transfer the bacon and onion (with the liquid that comes out with the rendering) into a slow cooker on the high setting. Add the chocolate, brown sugar, chipotle, roasted garlic, vinegar, coffee, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on high with the lid off for about 4 hours, stirring often, until the liquid is thick and syrupy. Taste it at intervals and add more sugar or more vinegar if needed.

After the mixture is thick and saucy, blend it with an immersion blender or put it in a food processor to break everything down into small chunks. It looks something like this:

Then place into sterilized jars and seal in a pressure canner (for at least 30 minutes) or keep refrigerated. Refrigeration is probably best because this is a small-batch recipe, unless you’re making more for a food swap.

I can’t wait to try more variations of the bacon jam recipe! I am already planning a bourbon bacon jam to give as gifts for the holidays and I want to experiment with more and more things to add.

Lots of people ask me what bacon jam is used for — obviously you don’t spread it cold on some toast, because it’s technically more like a tapenade or chutney than a jam.  I love it on a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla, as a topping for a baked potato or an additive to scrambled eggs or ramen noodles, and in steamed vegetables. Next time you steam some green beans, asparagus, corn or whatever as a side dish for dinner, toss in a tablespoon or two of this at the end. Wowza.

Honestly, when you have a jar of this stuff lying around, all of a sudden you think of a million ways to use it. Suddenly everyone is a culinary mastermind, adding it to everything they make. We took jars of this awesomeness to the food swap and that evening I made a delicious meatloaf with bacon chipotle jam mixed into it and spread on top.

Bacon/Chipotle Jam Meatloaf

  • 1/2 jar of bacon chipotle jam (recipe above)
  • 2 lbs. ground venison (or lean beef or chicken)
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • seasoned salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients (only about half of the bacon jam) thoroughly and transfer to a baking pan, then spread the remaining bacon jam on top of the meatloaf. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of food swapping in your community, I totally recommend starting one. You will be pleasantly surprised at the amazing people you meet, the incredible food they prepare, and the wonderful time you are guaranteed to have. Belinda and I made the bacon chipotle jam, as well as habanero salsa and tomatillo salsa, and I came with feijoa jam, apple butter, pumpkin apple butter, spicy pickled vegetables and zydeco beans. And check out what we came home with!

Persimmons and pomegranates.

Pickled tomatillos.

“Dirty little secret” bars.

Meyer lemon marmalade.

Fresh orange juice.

Coconut scones.

Sprouted sunflower seed dip.

Green Olive and Artichoke Pasta Sauce.

Zucchini relish.

Pear sauce and pears with vanilla and lavender.