“It’s better than just plain old bacon.”
In these bacon-crazed days, you don’t often hear something like that.
But Eddis Martinez, the executive chef and co-owner of 105-Ten Bar & Grill in Briarcliff Manor, was willing to teeter on the bacon ledge—and leap.
He’s whipping up bacon jam to smear on his burgers with melty Brie and truffle aioli. The results are smashing: This burger remains a best-seller since the restaurant opened in January 2014.
Martinez has glommed onto something that a growing number of restaurant chefs and farmers’ market artisans are discovering: You can jam more than fruit into that Mason jar. Tomato (Okay, fine; that’s a fruit, technically), onion, pepper, rosemary, curry, fennel, and yes, even bacon, make surprisingly lust-worthy savory jams.
Martinez purées the bacon with rice vinegar, coffee, brown sugar, and bacon fat. Recently, he used his jam for a scallops appetizer, too. It can also complement steak, shrimp, and chicken.
“It’s a versatile jam. The main flavor is sweet, then at the back of the palate it’s smoky,” he says. “I try to make the flavors build. It starts off sweet and light and then hits you on the head with spice—savory and bold.”
Sandwiches and burgers are especially rewarded by the fruits of these jammers’ labor. The Good Life Burger at Wolfert’s Roost in Irvington is garnished with red onion jam and Beemster cheese. And a balsamic onion marmalade is slathered inside a seasonal-vegetable sandwich at Juniper, a French-New American restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson.
“Savory jellies and jams have received a major boost from the boom in better burgers and upscale sandwiches,” according to menu-trends analyst Nancy Kruse at Nation’s Restaurant News, a national restaurant-industry resource.
In the fall and winter, Juniper chef/owner Alex Sze dresses up his roasted-butternut-squash-and-goat-cheese sandwiches with balsamic onion marmalade on multigrain bread. In spring and summer, he often switches to a tomato-and-grilled-eggplant sandwich for his marmalade.
“The balsamic and goat cheese pair well together,” Sze says. To create his marmalade, Sze cooks down the onions with sugar, balsamic vinegar, and salt. “We really reduce it, until it’s a nice, jammy consistency. The onions are finely sliced, and it’s not puréed, so it’s got a little texture.”
Sze has also toyed with green-tomato jam and a savory orange version spiced with star anise, cardamom, ginger, and coriander.
Caught on a snowy afternoon in early February, Denise Warren just whipped up a batch of sweet and smoky bacon marmalade to sell the following Saturday at the winter Mamaroneck Farmers’ Market.
“There is always one savory jam or spread at the market—most of the time the spread reflects the bounty of the season,” says Warren, owner of Stone & Thistle Farm in Meredith, NY. The farm also participates in the Larchmont Farmers’ Market, which runs from early May through much of December.
The Warren family sells baked goods, meat, poultry, and specialty foods such as jams, jellies, spreads, and chutneys. In the summer, Denise Warren often concocts a spicy tomato-apple chutney, bacon-blueberry jam, peach-bacon jam, and spicy strawberry chutney. In the fall, it’s bacon, fennel-apple chutney, and ginger-pear chutney, as well as red onion and shallot jam.
“I am always putting different savory flavors together,” she said.
Italophiles can find imported mostardas on the shelves at Tarry Market in Port Chester. This fruit chutney spiked with sharp, tangy mustard is the perfect complement to rich stewed or roasted meats.
Blueberry and Madras curry jam from Blueberet artisanal jams.
“We definitely find there is a trend toward things that are uniquely flavored,” says Kate Waters, owner, founder, and “CBO” (chief blueberry officer) of the artisanal jam company Bleuberet, which sources wild blueberries from Maine as the foundation of most of its jams.
Waters reduces the sugar in her jams, so the peak-season fruit and savory flavors really shine through.
A traditionally French-trained chef whose interests have turned toward Indian influences lately, Waters created a spiced jam with a little kick to the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, along with a madras curry jam using her own spice blend.
“Because curry is such a pervasive and permeating flavor, you get a stronger hit of curry over fruit in that one. It’s our most savory tasting jam,” Waters says.
Most people use the curry jam as a condiment on the table, or they coat their chicken and pork with it during the last few minutes of grilling, to get a nice glaze. The jam also brightens roasted vegetables when applied during the last few minutes. Waters advises against glazing with jam earlier in the cooking process because the jam’s sugar will burn. These jams also add pizzazz to cheese and charcuterie platters.
Her jams are sold at June & Ho, a specialty-food store in Rye; Plum Plums Cheese in Pound Ridge; and Brew & Co. in Bedford Hills. Bleuberet also participates in several Down to Earth farmers’ markets, including those in Croton-on-Hudson, Larchmont, and Rye.
“We always have traditional blueberry on hand,” Waters says. “But more often than not, people are intrigued by the different flavors and are thinking of outside-of-the-box ways they can eat jam, other than just on toast.”
“We get people asking: ‘Can I eat this with toast?’ I reply: ‘Of course you can, but who would want to?’”
Amy Sowder is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editorial assistant at www.chowhound.com. She’s always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate jam into her life, especially lower sugar jams in unusual flavors—sourced and created locally, of course. Learn more at www.AmySowder.com.