Introduction: Candied Pig-Nuts (BACON!)

About: I'm "Perpetually Gruntled"

The question that has haunted bacon lovers has always been: "When will someone find a way for me to enjoy bacon while I am performing tasks that are not bacon-friendly?"  Well my friends, that day has finally arrived!  We proudly present to you: Candied Pig-Nuts .

Just what is a Pig-Nut?  As a point of reference you could consider the Pig-Nut to be a distant cousin of the unfortunately misnamed "Burnt Peanut"; though neither is burnt, and as we mentioned, Pig-Nuts are made with BACON!

To a degree it goes without saying that bacon is one of God's greatest creations.  I know there are some who would argue against this, and quite frankly I'm not going to try to convince them otherwise because that would just inflate the demand.

Step 1: Gather the Hardware and Software

Raid the pantry or head to the grocery store for the Software
16oz. Shelled Pecans Halves *1
12oz. package thin-sliced uncooked Bacon (Be careful, sometimes bacon packages contain 16oz) *2
1 Large room temperature egg (we'll only need the white)
2tsp. Maple Syrup (or Maple-flavor Syrup)
2tsp. Cold water
3/4C. White Granulated Sugar
1/4C. Light Brown Sugar
2tsp. Ground Cinnamon (Reduce to 1tsp. if fresh-ground)
Butter flavored cooking spray
1/2tsp. Bacon Salt (TM) *3
OPTIONAL 1/2tsp. Dried Red Pepper Flakes

Gather the Hardware
Aluminum foil
Cookie sheet
Heavy pan
Kitchen scissors
Chef's knife and cutting board, or food processor
2 Large mixing bowls
Whisk or fork
Silicone spatula
Measuring cups and spoons

* Step 1 Notes:
1. Unroasted, unsalted pecans are best, but if salted is all that's available, use low-sodium bacon.
2. We tested several precooked and shelf-stable bacon products and the results were sub-par.  Cook your own bacon for best results.
3. Bacon Salt is available in the seasoning section of many grocery stores.  Be careful to select a simple bacon flavor such as Original, Maple, or even Peppered.  Cheddar Cheese Bacon Salt is good, but not on Pig Nuts.

Step 2: Roast Your Nuts!

Wash your hands.  Yes, that should be obvious, but there are a few points in this Instructable where it's very important, so we might as well get off on the right foot. (Or hands)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil with a sheet of foil an inch or two longer than your cookie sheet.  Crimp the foil around the center ends of the sheet, but leave the corners loose.

Spread the pecans in a single layer then place the cookie sheet with nuts on the center oven rack, close the oven door fully and roast at 350F for 8 minutes. 

IMPORTANT: Set a timer for 8 minutes and while the nuts are roasting begin step 3

When the timer sounds, reduce the oven temperature to 250F degrees and remove the cookie sheet from the oven.

Place the cookie sheet on a heat-safe surface and lift the aluminum foil by the corners and remove the foil, nuts and all from the cookie sheet and set the foil on a cool heat-resistant surface, such as a wooden cutting board or a second cookie sheet or large plate.*4

* Step 2 Notes:
4. Leaving the nuts on the hot cookie sheet or the nuts may overcooking from the residual heat.

Step 3: Crisp the Bacon

While the nuts are roasting we can get the bacon started.  For best results (crispest bacon) use thinly sliced bacon.

Preheat a heavy pan to medium heat. *5

Working on a remote surface to prevent contamination from raw meat, remove a few strips of bacon from the package and using the kitchen scissors, cut the strips into 1/8" to 1/4" pieces onto a plate or paper towel.  Continue cutting until the entire package of bacon is prepped.

Scatter the bacon pieces around the interior of the hot pan.

Toss the empty bacon package and paper towel (if used) and WASH YOUR HANDS, scissors and plate! 

Reduce the heat to medium low (#3 on a scale of 1-10) and stir frequently with a silicone spatula.

After a few minutes the fat will begin to render and pool in the bottom of the pan.  Slide the pan off the heat for a moment and carefully tilt the pan and remove most of the fat from the pan with a spoon and ladle it into a heat-proof container. *6 

Return the pan to the heat and continue cooking until golden brown and crisp. 

Remove the bacon bits from the pan with a spoon and place in a single layer on several pieces of paper towel and set aside to cool.

* Step 3 Notes:
5. We cook the bacon low and slow to render the fat and moisture, and to prevent overcooking.
6. The rendered fat can be used in other recipes or discarded after it cools and solidifies.

Step 4: Mix the Bacon Bits and the Drygoods

A food processor is ideal for this step, but if one is not available, see notes at the end of this step. *7

Add the cooled bacon, and measure in the White and Brown Sugar and the 2tsp of ground cinnamon to the food processor with chopping blades.  Pulse to blend. The bacon should be reduced to a fine chop (the size of half a grain of white rice). *8

Transfer approximately 3/4's of this mixture to a large bowl and reserve the balance in the food processor bowl.

* Step 4 Notes:
7. If you don't have access to a food processor you can chop the bacon to its final size with a knife.  Place the cooked bacon bits into a chopping board and chop with a chef's knife to the size of half a grain of white rice, or roughly the size of a candy "Nerd".  Mix with the dry ingredients in a large bowl using a fork or a whisk. 
*8 While white granulated sugar can be easily measured and poured, brown sugar can't because it's a little too sticky.  Use a 1/4C  measuring cup and press the brown sugar into the cup until it's tightly packed and level with the top.  Don't get too OCD with it because close enough is just fine for Pig-Nuts. 

Step 5: Whip the Egg Whites

The yoke is the "eggy" part of the egg, and since we're not making breakfast here it's got to go.  Fortunately all we need is the white, and it's easy to get to.

Crack the egg on a flat surface and hold the egg over a large bowl.  Transfer the yoke back and forth between the two halves of the shell while allowing the white to slip past the shell and into the bowl. *9

Add the Maple Syrup and the cold water and whisk the wet works until frothy.  (See photos)

* Step 5 Notes:
9. A lot of folks will crack the egg on the rim of the bowl which can drive bits of the shell into the egg.  BTW, if you're wondering what to do with the yoke, it can be refrigerated or frozen and later added to another recipe that calls for yokes, or do as my dog Goody suggests and add it to your dog's food.

Step 6: Top Your Nuts and Roast the Glaze

Just to confirm, you did catch the part about reducing the oven temperature to 250F degrees, right?  Good.

Add a new piece of aluminum foil to your cookie sheet as in Step 2.

Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray.

Working on a counter or table, line-up your egg wash bowl, the sugar-bacon mix bowl and your foil-lined cookie sheet.

Add all the pecans at once to the egg wash and stir to coat.  This may take a minute, but it's worth taking your time to cover every dry spot on the nuts.

Spoon the egg-covered nuts into the 3/4 of the sugar-bacon mix in a large bowl leaving behind any egg wash that's clinging to the bowl.  Stir to fully coat with the sugar-bacon mix. *10

Rinse the egg-wash bowl and wipe it dry. 

Transfer the fully coated nuts to the clean bowl, leaving behind any wet egg wash residue, and add the reserved 1/4 of the sugar-bacon mix to the nuts and stir (more like folding or tossing actually) gently to coat.

Transfer the coated nuts to the foil-lined cookie sheet and spread into a single layer. 

Place the cookie sheet onto the center rack of the 250F degree oven and roast for 25 minutes. 

Open the oven and slide the rack and cookie sheet out of the oven and immediately top the hot Pig-Nuts with the Bacon Salt and the OPTIONAL red pepper flakes.  *11 & 12

Remove the cookie sheet and remove the foil from the sheet one last time and place it on a heat-safe surface. 

Stir the Candied Pig-Nuts to separate from the foil and from each other and to redistribute any run-away bits of bacon. 

Your Candied Pig-Nuts are ready to be consumed!

Candied Pig-Nuts are best enjoyed warm, or within hours of roasting.  To store place in an air-tight container (a clean, lidded jar or a large Zip-Loc bag) and freeze or refrigerate.  How long are they edible?  I have no idea because they've never made it through a night!

* Step 6 Notes:
10. Some of the egg wash may remain in the wet bowl. This extra egg wash should not be added to the dry-goods bowl.
11. Our Bacon Salt flavor of choice is Peppered, and though we show Original is many of the photos here, the Peppered just brings so much more flavor to the party.  Maple is good, but with real Maple Syrup already in the mix, you just won't notice it's subtle taste.
12. I almost hate to make this an option because the pepper flakes really kick Pig-Nuts into high gear, but not everyone can handle the heat.

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