Intro: Bacon Jello
Bacon jello. Yes, it's bacon-flavored jello that looks like you're slicing into a nice, thick slab of home-cured bacon. Think of it less as dessert, and more as a surprisingly edible piece of concept art. This jello has a dairy base flavored with bacon (of course!), a mix of maple syrup and flamed and reduced Calvados, and applewood smoke.
Want to get fancy? Do this again, but change up the flavorings: breakfast (bacon, eggs, and toast layers), a BLT (obvious), or your own favorite bacon-based flavor combination.
I made this for the 2012 SF Bacon Takedown, and greatly enjoyed the double-takes of unsuspecting bacon-tasters who were suddenly confronted with bacon jello. While this wasn't a crowd or judge favorite (see judge Josh's reaction here), I was primarily interested in the mechanics of making my jello a) actually contain a strong bacon flavor, b) actually look like bacon in cross-section, and c) actually be edible. Despite ewilhelm's contention that "that's never going to work!", it was a success on all fronts. Win!
You can also check out my 4th-place Bacon Pixie Stix recipe and Scoochmaroo's incredible burbon bacon caramels1, as well as the Bacon Fruit Cups I made for a previous Bacon Camp.
1 D'oh, Sarah didn't document the recipe! If you want it, ask her to make them again and take some pictures.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
While I made a triple batch for competition, this recipe is scaled to fit in one standard Pyrex pan.
120g fried, thin-cut bacon
1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half
17 packets (1/4 oz each) of plain gelatin
1/3 cup plus 3 Tablespoons maple syrup (grade B, the nice dark stuff)
1 cup calvados, or similarly bacon-compatible 80-proof or greater booze
red food coloring
2 teaspoons applewood liquid smoke (hickory strikes me as a bad idea)
5 cups boiling water
bacon frying apparatus
sieve, cheesecloth, or chinois
8.5" x 11" Pyrex baking dish (listed as holding ~3 quarts or 3 liters)
aluminum foil (optional)
rocks, beans, rice, or other small/maneuverable dry item
fire of some type (for flaming booze)
measuring cups and spoons
Step 2: Fry Bacon
First, fry up a pound of your favorite thin-sliced bacon. For this dish, you're going to be incorporating bacon flavor into dairy, so it doesn't have to be fried totally dry - do it however you like it, just don't burn it. I made tons of bacon for multiple dishes, so fried some in my favorite cast iron pot and also cooked some in the oven.
Step 3: Prep Bacon/dairy Mix
Pour the quart of half-and-half into the blender.
Weigh out about 120g of bacon, and add to blender.
Blend on high for 3-5 minutes, until bacon is thoroughly incorporated, then let it sit for another 15 minutes.
Blend on high again for 1 minute, then pour through your sieve into a bowl or pitcher to save until ready to use.
This bacon-infused half-and-half is your base for all of the steps to come.
Step 4: Prep Pan
Fill your bags about 1/4 full with pea gravel, beans, rice, or other similarly-weighted items. Tape or ziplock bags shut; don't tie them, or you won't get proper coverage.
Arrange them flat along the base of you pan, then create a couple of channels running the length of the pan, each about 1/3 of the way in from the sides.
Cover with a layer of aluminum foil or waxed paper (optional) then a layer of plastic wrap.
Tape the plastic wrap in place, especially on the edges to prevent jello sloshing over and getting under the plastic wrap. Make sure you've left enough flex to follow the contours of your gravel bed!
Step 5: Prep First Layer
Measure out 2 2/3 cup of bacon infusion into a mixing bowl.
Sprinkle 3 1/3 packets (.83 oz, or 23.5g) gelatin over the surface, and lit it sit and absorb liquid ("bloom") for a few minutes.
Add 2 2/3 cup of nearly-boiling water, and whisk until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved.
Cool to room temperature, then pour into your prepared pan, taking care not to slop over the edges of your plastic wrap.
Move carefully to the refrigerator, and allow to set up for several hours, preferably overnight.
Note 1: if doing this again, I'd add maple syrup to this layer as well (probably about 3 Tablespoons) to give it a bit sweeter jello flavor.
Note 2: remember, I've divided my numbers by 3 to give you the one-pan quantities. That's why there's a bunch of 1/3 package and 2/3 cup measurements floating about.
Step 6: Flip
Once your base layer has set fully, de-tape the edges of your plastic wrap and aluminum foil and gently lift it out of the pan, being sure to support the gelatin carefully. Set it on the counter, and inspect your handiwork. In the 4th picture below, you can see what happens if you get jello under the containment layer - it looks pretty nasty. And worse, you've lost precious bacon jello! To avoid this, pour slowly and move your pans carefully when jello is still liquid. (I sloshed one of three when doing the transfer to the fridge.)
Now remove your rocks, and wash out the pan thoroughly. Dry the pan, then re-line it with waxed paper.
Set the pan upside-down over the jello on your counter, then flip both pieces together, taking care to support it thoroughly the entire time to avoid any cracks. If you've done it right, the jello will pop neatly into the pan.
Finally, pull off the plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and examine your bacony ridges. Success! All of that brownish stuff you see is actual bacon residue; had I chosen to filter more aggressively, it might all be pure bacon-fat-colored creaminess, but I liked the idea of some bacon bits. Your mileage may vary.
Step 7: Prep Middle Layer
This layer will be your "meat" strip in the center of the bacon. I've chosen to flavor it with maple syrup and flamed/reduced calvados, for a nice apple-maple flavor to complement the bacon.
Place 1 cup Calvados (or high-proof booze of your choice) in a small pot, and heat until the liquid starts to shimmer. Carefully stick a long match or burning skewer (or similar fire source that keeps your fingers out of the way) over the just-evaporating booze, and set it on fire. Enjoy the flames for a few minutes, keep a wary eye on any nearby combustibles, and maybe roast a few mini-marshmallows over the blaze. When the flames die down, continue heating the Calvados until it's reduced to about 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons).
Combine 1/3 cup of the Bacon/half-and-half mixture and 2 Tablespoons flamed & reduced Calvados, then sprinkle 1 1/3 packets of gelatin over the top and allow to bloom for about 5 minutes.
Whisk in 2/3 cup hot water, and stir until all gelatin has dissolved. Add red food coloring until the mix reaches your preferred bacon meat color. (I would have preferred a darker red, but ran out of food coloring.)
Wait until the mixture cools to lukewarm, then pour on top of flipped bottom layer in the pan, making sure to fill all the crevices, and return to the fridge to coagulate.
Step 8: Prep Top Layer
This one is just syrup and smoke.
Combine 1cup bacon/half-and-half mix with 2 teaspoons liquid smoke and 2 Tablespoons maple syrup. Sprinkle two packets of gelatin over the surface, and let sit for about 5 minutes to bloom.
Whisk in 1 cup boiling water, and stir until all gelatin is dissolved. Once your mix has cooled down to lukewarm, dump it over the previously-coagulated layers, and return your jello to the fridge.
Step 9: Serve & Store
Once the jello is fully set, grasp edges of the waxed paper and carefully lift it out of the dish. You may need to support the middle so the jello doesn't sag or break.
Cut in half on a clean cutting board, then decide whether you want full or half-slices of bacon. Since I was serving this at the Bacon Takedown, I chose to cut it again so I could create half-slices from pan quarters. It also made for easier transport, as the quarter-sized slabs fit into my cooler, and were a better match for the length of my chef's knife and cutting board.
Serve by carving off thin slices just as you would with a hunk of real bacon. I found that about 1/3" was the right thickness to maintain structural integrity of the bacon slices. As you can see below, it's remarkably convincing. Just don't fry it!
To store, wrap slabs in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Food coloring will slowly migrate into the neighboring white bits of jello, but not too badly; the main image below was taken after about 5 days storage.
Have fun, and if you try this at home please post pictures in the comments! I'd especially like to see any variants you make - there's a huge opportunity for creating fun bacon-based jello monstrosities.