The Northeast is being beaten down with what some are calling “Frankenstorm”, and it seems like Halloween plans might need to be postponed. But as long as you’ve still got power or gas, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy some candy. I’ve been in a candy making mood lately and these tend to be at the top of my list whenever I get down to it.
You may have heard of pig candy – which is made coating bacon strips in brown sugar and baking them. Like any bacon lover, I was intrigued enough to try this once. It was tasty, but not worth the mess. The unexpected mess, the grease and excess sugar that come off the bacon, however, was worth the entire experiment. The sugar had caramelized and mixed with the fat to form a deeply flavorful candy-like sauce. It was delicious enough that it inspired me to look up how caramel candies are made to see if I could somehow baconize them, and recreate the accidental candy without having to ruin good bacon in the process.
A basic caramel candy involves a fat, a sugar, and then cream or milk to soften it and make it chewy. Usually the fat is butter and the sugar is granulated white sugar, corn syrup, and maybe brown sugar. But since the bacon fat did such a great job imparting bacon-y flavor to the candy on the baking pan, I knew it would work in candies in place of butter.
How do you get the bacon fat? By cooking bacon, of course. To get the amount of bacon you’ll need for this recipe, you’ll need to have cooked about a quarter pound of bacon, which can be anywhere from 4 to 8 strips depending on the kind and thickness of the cut. Since you don’t need very much, I recommend using the best bacon you can find and afford here. It makes a big difference. And you deserve good bacon. Have yourself some bacon waffles, a bacon scallion quiche, or a deviled egg salad sandwich. Or just eat it. I don’t think I need to tell you how to enjoy bacon.
After a lot of experimenting, and many taste testers, I found that a maple flavor really helped bring out the bacon and deepened the flavor of the caramel.
Recipe: Bacon Caramel Candies
Makes about 100 candies
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 1/8 cup dark corn syrup
- 1/4 cup bacon fat
- 1/2 cup milk
- sea salt
- wax paper
- candy thermometer, if you have one
- Line a loaf pan, or other pan with a small bottom surface area, with wax paper.
- If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and dark corn syrup, and set the pot on low heat. Stir until it all dissolves and forms a smooth bubbling liquid.
- Add the bacon fat, and keep stirring until the temperature reaches about 230 degrees Fahrenheit. If you aren’t using a thermometer, you can test by dropping bits of the caramel in a small glass of cold water. When it forms threads of sugar, it is ready. Remove from the heat.
- Add the milk, stir. Return to the heat and stir until the temperature reaches about 245 degrees Fahrenheit, or forms a ball that stays fairly firm if you roll it between your fingers in a water test. Remove from the heat.
- Pour into the wax paper in the loaf pan as quickly as possible, before the caramel starts to harden. Be careful, even though it will begin to harden immediately, it will still not be cool enough to taste. The spoon or spatula you use to get it out of the pot will be especially hot. Sprinkle sea salt on the top of the caramel.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do not refrigerate. When the caramel is cool to the touch, you can begin to cut it. Cut it into small 1 inch x 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch pieces. Wrap each piece in a small square of wax paper and twist the ends. Give them to everyone you know!
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...