Bacon, marmalade and pumpernickel. Seriously.

by Terry B on September 26, 2007

The strangely delicious Bacon & Marmalade Sandwich on Pumpernickel Toast. Recipe of sorts below.

Today’s post actually contains two recipes. Well, not so much recipes as ways to celebrate bacon. Bacon is the über meat in my book. I mean, I love a good steak, a juicy seared chop, a nice pot roast… [okay, so I guess I'm saying I love meat], but there’s just something about bacon. If the aroma of a chicken roasting in the oven is intoxicating [and it is], the smell of frying bacon is crack.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. I dated a vegetarian for a while who, when she fell off the wagon every few months or so, did not do it for a skinless chicken breast or a salmon fillet. It was almost always for bacon. Apparently, bacon is the transgression of choice among vegetarians. I’ve happened upon a number of posts on various blogs in which vegetarians admit as much.

There are entire blogs devoted to bacon, in fact. Most notably The Bacon Show, which posts a new bacon-using recipe every day “forever” [as its masthead promises].

And I totally understand. More birthdays than not, the birthday dinner I request from my wife Marion is her heavenly take on Pasta Carbonara. She dispenses with the heavy cream in her version, but in every other regard, it is a heart attack on a plate. You start by frying a pound of bacon. Then you cook zucchini in the bacon grease—you toss the pasta in it too. And you drizzle in raw egg. It is deadly but delicious. We used to eat it regularly, but have reluctantly come to our senses and now only eat it once or twice a year. When my birthday rolls around, I may have her do a post on it. With a surgeon general’s warning, of course.

Meanwhile back at bacon and marmalade on, uh, pumpernickel? I first heard about this about this concoction indirectly through a New York food blogger [the blog no longer exists, or I would have the link here]. She and a friend had eaten at Prune, chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s Manhattan bistro serving up what New York magazine describes as “the sort of unpretentious home cooking at which she excels, a grab bag of eccentric, multicultural influences that is, at heart, American.” Sounded like my kind of food, and it’s right around the corner from my favorite New York French bistro, Lucien. So I looked at Prune’s menu online, and this lunch item jumped out at me: Bacon and Marmalade Sandwich on Pumpernickel Toast—$9.

At first blush, it sounded like an Elvisworthy trainwreck of a meal, not unlike his beloved fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. But then the ultimate Britishness of it hit me. Not sure why, but probably it was the marmalade. I grew up in a grape jelly-eating household; when I first discovered marmalade as a college student, it was Dundee. Then it was sold in a stoneware crock. Now it comes in white, opaque glass jars, a cheaper way to suggest its crockery heritage, but it’s still made in the UK by James Keiller & Son, as it has been since 1797.

Googling “bacon and marmalade sandwich” bore out my suspicions. There was no recipe to be had, unfortunately, but there were wistful mentions of these sandwiches from Brit school days long past. And Melinda Schwakhofer, an American fiber artist now living in the UK, weaved it into one of her posts on her blog Inspiraculum thus: “I started off my creative day with elevenses, a snack that is similar to afternoon tea, but eaten in the morning. The name refers to the time of day that it is taken: around 11 am. I had a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk and one sugar, brewed in my favourite mug, and a bacon and marmalade sandwich on toast.” [Note the "ou" in favourite—she hasn't gone too native, has she?]

The closest I came to an actual recipe was another mention of Prune in New York magazine, more of a description, really, when it named the Prune version a sandwich of the week: “The key to making a good bacon-and-marmalade sandwich, it can now be revealed, is to spread the top piece of the grilled bread lavishly with butter and orange marmalade so that it trickles down, effectively coating and glazing the hot bacon as if it had been dragged through a car wash equipped with a marmalade spray gun.”

Close enough—and intriguing enough to try. Time to go shopping.

Making the sandwiches was brainlessly easy. Gathering the ingredients took a little more work. I found some decent bacon at Whole Foods—I wanted something other than the standard issue stuff, thicker, leaner slices. I found the Dundee marmalade at Treasure Island, a Chicago chain of supermarkets that is a great source for all things European. I started to get their classic Orange Marmalade, but then I saw their Three Fruits Marmalade, made with oranges, lemons and grapefruit—that sounded even livelier. And Marion found a nice, dense pumpernickel rye at a Polish bakery and sausage shop in our neighborhood. Here’s what I hesitate to even dignify with the term “recipe”:

Bacon & Marmalade Sandwich on Pumpernickel Toast
Serves 2

8 strips thick cut bacon
4 slices pumpernickel bread
butter
orange marmalade [I actually used Dundee Three Fruits Marmalade]

Fry bacon in two batches or two large skillets, starting uncooked slices in a cold skillet and turning frequently until cooked through, but not until totally crisp—it will hold together better in the sandwich this way. Drain on paper towels.

Toast bread. Butter one slice for each sandwich generously, then apply liberal amounts of marmalade to the buttered slices. I used 2 tablespoons for each sandwich, but our slices of bread were small—about 3 inches by 4-1/2 inches. Arrange bacon on unbuttered slices of bread and top with buttered, marmalade-laden slices. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

And now the verdict. It was really, really good. Really good. The first bite was as surprising as you might think, given the combination. But then the mixing of sweet and savory, with a little undertone of tart bitterness, began to kick in and it became just as complex and wonderful as you might also think. Make sure you use good ingredients if you decide to make this, though. With only three [four, if you count the butter], a bad one has no place to hide. In looking for marmalade, I saw quite a variety. But I doubt that Smuckers or even Polaner, geared toward the American palate as they are, would be as satisfyingly tart as the Dundee. If anyone has tried either of them and can tell me otherwise, I’d love to hear from you.

Oh. I promised you a second recipe of sorts, didn’t I? We went to the Logan Square Farmers Market in a failed attempt to find really primo, locally produced artisanal bacon. When I described the sandwich I was planning to make to one of the farmers [who said he would have bacon in a couple of weeks], he said his favorite sandwich was a twist on the classic BLT, or bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich [with mayonnaise on toast, preferably white toast]. The BAT, as he called it—a bacon, arugula and tomato sandwich. My first thought was this sounded amazing, with crunchy, peppery arugula beautifully replacing boring old iceberg lettuce. My second thought was, “Wait a minute. Farmers eat arugula?” It’s an amazing world, isn’t it?

Also this week in Blue Kitchen

Pioneering hard bop and an argument for time travel, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?

Eight-car pile up as art, in a suburban shopping mall at WTF? Random food for thought.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Toni September 26, 2007 at 4:46 am

Terry, you’re the only one I know who could make a sandwich post read like a novel! At first glance, I thought you had lost your mind. Then I thought about it and realized that the only thing missing was the egg. But that would have been too prosaic — I mean, a McTerry sandwich on Blue Kitchen? ;-)

Katiez September 26, 2007 at 7:54 am

Have you tried a grilled (fried) bacon and peanut butter? On whole wheat, naturally, to be healthy. Or you could do it on pumpernickel….
For me the best scent in the kitchen is bacon and onions frying together. I miss good bacon, sigh…

Lydia September 26, 2007 at 12:44 pm

I’ve pretty much given up eating bacon, but after reading this wonderful post, I realize that on a moment’s notice I can still conjure up the aroma and the taste. I’ll have to get my husband to try this sandwich — there’s nothing in it that he doesn’t love on its own.

Alanna September 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm

What’s most amazing is the $9 price tag for a couple of slices of bread with bacon and jam.

My favorite breakfast living in Europe was Finn Crisp or Wasa hard crackers with thin slices of cheese topped with marmalade — much similar, especially with thin slices of something cured, too.

buckymcoinkumsbbq September 26, 2007 at 1:35 pm

I like the bit about the veg g/f… when you think about it, falling off the wagon for bacon is about as far off the wagon as one can get!

I love pig candy… I make it by laying bacon strips on a cooling rack, on top of a cookie sheet. Then I add a bit of molasses and muscovado sugar. Put in a cold oven turned to 400. Once the oven reaches temp, check it every 3 or so minutes until it reaches my desired crispiness (very crispy, but not burned). Let it cool, and pig candy is ready!

Carol Wallwork September 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Your recipes always address the most crucial aspect of preparation–love of cooking, companionship and where to find the goods!

Which brings me to the problematic pumpernickel. It’s so hard, just 25 miles west Washington, DC, to find real bread. A Polish Bakery, if only!!
This recipe sounds so good though I shall begin my expedition today, to find a source of real pumpernickel.

Joanna September 26, 2007 at 2:19 pm

I’ve tried to find bacon at the farmers market too, but no luck. I think you’re right on about the vegetarian thing. I could definitely go vegetarian if it weren’t for bacon. Oh, and that sandwich looks awesome.

manggy September 26, 2007 at 2:36 pm

I don’t think pumpernickel exists in my country (I may have to make it myself!). I must be a bit English, as I don’t find anything unnatural at all (a-tall?) about mixing marmalade and bacon… Mmm..

Terry B September 26, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Toni—I must admit, I thought this sandwich sounded a little crazy at first too. Then I decided, as they say in bad action movies, that “it sounds so crazy it just might work.” And it did.

Katiez—Bacon and onions? I can totally smell it. And I’ve got a little leftover bacon. Hmmmm.

Lydia—If you can cook some bacon for your husband and not eat any, you have superhuman strength. Not necessarily a useful or marketable one, but superhuman nonetheless.

Alanna—Actually, I saw a photo. It comes with some excellent looking cole slaw as well and is a pretty generous looking sandwich. I don’t think I’d feel cheated. In fact, if it’s still on the lunch menu by the next time I make it to New York, I think I’ll just have to try it. But you’re dead on with the phrase “something cured”—that’s a great addition to just about any sandwich or snack.

Bucky—Pig candy? I thought I was out there with bacon and marmalade, but you ratcheted it right up. That said, pig candy sounds pretty amazing.

Carol—Good luck on your search! DC is such an international city, I’d be stunned if you can’t find something decent breadwise.

Joanna—I’m so looking forward to trying the bacon from the farmers market when they get it in. Although bacon may be one of those things whose flavor relies on all the scary stuff done to it in standard production. Artisanal stuff may end up being the baked potato chip version of bacon. I’ll report back.

manggy—Any firm, crusty bread will do, I think. Pumpernickel does give it an extra kind of rye bread oomph, but I think the Brit version actually uses white toast. But you do want to toast the bread so it doesn’t turn to mush with the marmalade.

Carolyn September 26, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Finally! An Elvisworthy blog! My very proper, very stoic Grandma once made me what remains a favorite sandwich, although a sandwich that I rarely make nowadays. The sandwich was bacon, braunshweiger, mayonnaise AND peanut butter on toast. Perhaps we could have slathered the bread with butter and toasted it. Elvis would have like that. . . .

Christine September 26, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Wow! Excellent post on what seemed at first, an unusual topic. But you sold me (as usual). I have to try this!

Terry B September 26, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Carolyn—This post seems to have inspired a confessional tone in comments. Makes me think doing a guilty pleasures post sometime. And I must confess, your sandwich sounds pretty terrific!

Christine—Thanks! It sounded so strange to me that I’m a little surprised that everyone has been responding so positively. I was totally expecting, “What are you, nuts?!?”

Susan from Food Blogga September 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Actually Terry, I’ve begun eating meat lately, and it was sausage that did me in. So, I might have a taste of this bacon sandwich as it’s quite intriguing to me right now!

Terry B September 26, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Susan—Welcome back to the land of omnivores! Sausage? Bacon? The lure of “something cured” [as Alanna put it so well] is powerful indeed.

Melinda September 26, 2007 at 9:21 pm

Bacon makes just about everything taste wonderful. Hmm… thought of a good exception example. Bacon Ice Cream. That doesn’t work for me. I don’t think Heston Blumenthal could even pull that one off and make it tasty!

Terry B September 26, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Melinda—I actually saw a mention of bacon ice cream somewhere while working on this post. I’m not saying it’s good, necessarily—just that it exists somewhere out there. And Vosges Haut-Chocolat here in Chicago makes a bacon chocolate bar that we tried this summer. We weren’t crazy about it, but it’s apparently a popular item for them.

Jennifer from Hambone and Spice September 27, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Why am I not surprised by this combination? I applaud the use of bacon in a sweet/savory/salty combo.

When I was a kid, my parents regularly made salami, sharp cheddar, and raspberry jam sandwiches for Saturday lunch. I can’t remember if I loved these sandwiches then, but I do remember an early grocery-shopping experience when I started living on my own. There I was, minding my own business, when a jar of Bonne Maman raspberry landed in my basket. Next thing I knew, I was at the meat counter, ordering a quarter-pound each thinly sliced Genoa salami and sharp cheddar.

These sandwiches have become a staple midnight snack. Neither my husband nor my children will touch these. More for me!

Rosa September 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm

Interesting! This sandwich must taste good! A great combination…

Terry B September 27, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Jennifer—Salami, sharp cheddar and raspberry jam? That sounds amazing—I want that sandwich right now! And it’s funny how we sometimes grow into foods from our childhoods, isn’t it?

Rosa—It is exactly that combination of sweet, savory and salty that Jennifer mentions above that makes it work.

Dee September 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Just discovered your blog and I’m enjoying it !
Bacon and marmalade toast sandwiches don’t sound strange at all to me – I’ve been indulging in them for decades. One good thing about winter weekend Sunday mornings is that I can indulge in a thick slab of hopefully homemade toasted bread with Frank Cooper’s Vintage Coarse Cut marmalade – the Emperor of Marmalades and some thickcut smoked bacon while I read the papers. Heaven !!!
More details about the Emperor of Marmalades here

http://www.englishteastore.com/frcovioxma16.html

You’ll never touch Kraft DayGlo orange marmalade again.

PS – you also need a good grinding of fresh black pepper on the bacon.

Terry B September 28, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Dee—Thanks! And thanks for the tip on Frank Cooper’s Vintage Coarse Cut Oxford Marmalade. Apparently even Her Majesty enjoys it. Googling it, I found any number of online sources that carry it. I may have to track it down.

Srivalli September 29, 2007 at 5:22 am

hi there…that looks fantastic…lovely pictures….You have a very interesting blog here…thanks..

Kirsten September 29, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Wow!! At first I was skeptical, but this sounds good…the carwash/melting description started it, then I recalled how much I like bacon with maple syrup and pancakes…and so this really isn’t a stretch. :)

Christina September 30, 2007 at 11:31 pm

You had me at the title. Tangy, salty, sweet, crunchy. This sandwich has it all. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

And, if you hang out with enough farmers, you’ll find they don’t only eat arugula, they eat all the good stuff. In many cases, it is the consumers, not the farmers, that are late to the party.

Terry B October 1, 2007 at 12:49 am

Thanks, Srivalli, and welcome to Blue Kitchen.

Kirsten—My own thought process about this sandwich pretty much mirrored yours. Interestingly, just as many seemed to make the leap immediately, as Christina [her comment is right under yours] did.

Christina—My own admittedly prejudicial view of farmers is shaped by the Midwest, I think. Here, when you drive through farmland, you pass acre after acre of corn, corn, corn, soybeans, corn, corn, corn… Where you live in southern California, EVERYthing is grown. So I’m sure you’re right that farmers there are often ahead of the curve. I’m happy to say that, as evidenced by my conversation with the farmer at the farmers market, more small farms in the Midwest are producing a wider range of food to be consumed directly by the people they sell to—not by livestock or factories.

Cliff October 3, 2007 at 8:17 pm

I’ll be making this tonight in my college dorm. Thank you.

zoe October 4, 2007 at 7:23 am

hi, agree wholeheartedly on this great combo.. in fact, I used to get in trouble at breakfast nearly every weekend for ‘wasting’ the (homemade and precious) marmalade by eating it on toast with bacon. peanut butter is also great, if you are a convicted marmalade waster!

cheryl October 20, 2007 at 5:36 pm

peanut butter and marmalade on good pumpernickel. Mmmm. Great comfort food.

brilynn October 24, 2007 at 2:05 am

I’m so intrigued by this and am convinced it would be wonderful!

Peko February 24, 2008 at 4:29 pm

This, at first glance, seems seriously weird, but actually, now that I think about it, it sounds seriously delicious.

I mean seriously, who would have thought that duck and orange would go together?

Peko@KyotoFoodie

Jennifer Jacks August 6, 2009 at 12:56 am

I was watching a Food Network show last night called “The Best Thing I’ve Eaten Between Bread.” It was several different chefs and food critics all talking about the best sandwich they ever had. I was flippping and stopped just as a chef was talking about this sandwich from Prune restaurant. I was mesmerized. Today I searched for “marmalade bacon and pumpernickel” and your blog came up. I read it beginning to end and will definitely be attempting to recreate this asap! My husband is very excited to try it. Thanks for your recipe!!

Terry B August 6, 2009 at 1:29 am

Thanks, Cliff, zoe, cheryl, brilynn and Peko—my apologies for the belated and somewhat perfunctory reply, but until just today, this post had been fairly dormant. See the comment above.

Jennifer Jacks—Wow. Thanks for clearing up a mystery for me! I was wondering why this nearly two-year-old post was suddenly seeing big traffic again.

john December 4, 2009 at 12:34 am

very impressed with the comments, am going to make this sandwhich right now will comment later.

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