When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind. I really have no particular knowledge of its history, it's just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe. I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.
Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe. The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch. But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra. This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.
And no, I do not think this is too much bacon. It is actually very well balanced. But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well. The spoon bread works as a side with stick ribs, or grilled foods, or as part of a breakfast spread. And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Bacon spoon bread
6 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease.
2. Mix the cornmeal, sugar, and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Bring the water, butter, and 1 tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan. Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal. Beat until thick and stiff. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in the bacon pieces and beat until combined. Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until the center is set. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of tomato bacon jam.
Makes 1 pint
6 strips of bacon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
2. In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning. The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.
3. Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool. The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.