Who would have thought there would be an appetite for spreadable meat in a jar?
Chef Josh Henderson says he certainly didn't when he opened his food truck, Skillet Street Food, in Seattle in 2007. He was stunned (not to mention pleased)by the popularity of the bacon jam he created to serve on his burgers. Customersbegan asking for containers of the smoky purée of caramelized bacon, balsamic vinegar and onions.
"Initially, when I first started, I had no desire to sell a condiment," he says. "But it became pretty apparent after a while that this was something that could be pretty interesting."
Mr. Henderson soon began packaging it in jars, and his Skillet Original Bacon Spread took off from there. He now distributes it to gourmet shops across the U.S. and in Southern Ontario and B.C.
Spreadable bacon has moved away from being a mere culinary curiosity to a grocery-store item. Even food retailing giant Loblaw is unveiling a bacon marmalade under its new line of President's Choice Black Label gourmet foods, to be available in stores in October. The President's Choice product is a similar concoction of bacon, balsamic vinegar, sweet sautéed onions and spices, slowly simmered and prepared in a spreadable form.
Mr. Henderson says he initially got the idea to make bacon jam after tasting a blue cheese and bacon compote on a burger in Los Angeles.
Like bacon itself, the condiment is highly versatile. Besides slathering it on burgers, Mr. Henderson, who was in Toronto on Monday to demonstrate the product, uses it in paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches, and he suggests that it can be used in scrambled eggs, as a base for vinaigrettes, on baked potatoes and on pasta. The savoury jam has an intense smoky-sweet flavour, kind of like barbecued pork if it were pulverized into a paste.
He is now working on creating new flavours, such as a black-pepper fennel bacon jam, which can be added to ricotta to make a filling for ravioli, and a brown sugar apple bacon jam.
Skillet Original Bacon Spread, $19.95, is available at All The Best Fine Foods in Toronto (1101 Yonge St.), and various other Canadian gourmet stores, listed on the Skillet Street Food website, www.skilletstreetfood.com.
President's Choice Black Label Bacon Marmalade, $4.99 will be in Loblaw stores in early October.