In one of the few positive developments we’ve seen recently in American society, whiskey has been breaking out of the bottle and popping up in culinary delights ranging from hot sauce to maple syrup to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Never one to miss out on a foodie trend like chicken sandwiches or flavor dust, Shake Shack has uncorked a couple of new whiskey-positive menu items featuring a sweet and savory bacon jam made with Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon.
Also featuring bacon that’s been smoked for six hours over real hardwood applewood, the jam, which contains notes of vanilla, caramel and oak, tops off the Shack’s new Bourbon Bacon Cheddar Burger and Bourbon Bacon Cheddar Chicken Sandwich.
“Bacon jam is really popular and has become somewhat iconic within the industry on burgers or as a condiment at fine-dining steakhouses,” John Karangis, executive chef and VP of culinary innovation at Shake Shack, tells InsideHook. “We’ve seen people take bacon and mix it with honey. We’ve seen people take apple jam and add some bacon. None of those are wrong in my opinion. But what we wanted to do was incorporate bourbon and bacon and make a jam out of it in a really thoughtful way.”
Following a plethora of taste tests and recipe adjustments, Karangis and his team were able to walk away with a product that they “really love” after a top-to-bottom development process that took about a year to complete.
“Needing to check the flavor box and really make it delicious took a little while,” he says. “Then we zeroed in on the texture. If you think about a fruit jam, it’s pretty soft and jammy-like. We wanted to make sure we had some texture with some bits and pieces that added an interesting mouth feel, and that you could taste the jalapeno peppers and the onions. We also didn’t want the bacon to be too pureed or too chunky.”
Once the flavor and texture of the jam were right and the bacon was balanced to perfection came the fun part.
“We always think about what we can do to elevate something. So, once we had a bacon jam we loved, we thought about what could we do to make it better. Bourbon quickly came to mind,” Karangis says. “I’ve seen people add spirits to dry rubs and seasonings to a bunch of different things and I love it. The flavor profile of bourbon is also inherently a great pairing for bacon. People are always looking for ways to be relevant and attract a new audience. We’re no different and we knew from the outset this could be something really special. Making a jam that was familiar to people, but somewhat different and unexpected was interesting to us.”
If making that sort of jam sounds interesting to you too, we’ve got the recipe below.
Shake Shack’s New Bourbon Bacon Jam
- 12 oz. cooked bacon, cut into ½-inch strips
- 7 oz. onion, 1/8-inch julienne
- 4 oz. jalapeno pepper, diced
- 2 oz. golden raisins
- 1 oz. garlic, fresh and sliced
- 3 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon
- 1 oz. bacon rendering
- 1 oz. clover honey
- ½ oz. tomato paste
- 2 oz. apple cider vinegar
- 2 oz. water
- 1 bay leaf, fresh
- 3 sprigs thyme, fresh
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- Pinch of fresh ground pepper
- Tie the bay leaf with the thyme with butcher twine and set aside.
- Add bacon to a sauce pot and cook slowly, while stirring frequently, until the bacon is fully cooked. Drain the bacon from the pan and reserve the drippings. Add the 1 oz. of bacon drippings back to the pan reserving the bacon on the side.
- Add the onions and jalapenos to the pan with the salt and pepper and cook low and slow until the vegetables are soft and lightly caramelized.
- Add garlic and tomato paste and cook while stirring for 10 minutes.
- Add raisins, honey, water, vinegar, reserved bacon, bourbon and herbs and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on it and cook for 10-15 minutes on low flame. Remove lid and simmer for five more minutes and until the moisture is almost completely evaporated.
- Remove the herbs and cool this mixture completely. Add to a food processor and pulse for just 5 seconds.
- Store refrigerated for up to two weeks.
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