Candied Bacon

My community garden has lovely bi-monthly potlucks. Everyone else brings delicate vegan quinoa salads. And I bring candied bacon. At least I give fair warning.


Despite being out of place, it’s always a hit. It’s not actually my recipe – my mom found it in a newspaper years ago and mailed it to me as a joke. It turned out to be amazing and very easy, making it ideal for a party. Here’s what you need:

1 lb bacon

4 tbsp packed brown sugar

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of black pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper


That’s it! And the last two are optional. Preheat your oven to 400F and mix up all your dry ingredients in a bowl. I tend to do very generous spoonfuls.


Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. This is a messy dish, and you’ll be glad for the foil when it’s time to clean. Cut your bacon strips into thirds and lay ’em out flat. It’s fine if they overlap.


Mix your dry ingredients together into a tasty powder.


Shake it out over your bacon so it’s evenly coated, and pop it in the oven.


Take it out 15 minutes later. By this time your house will have filled with a smell. The smell will make you wonder why you ever eat anything else. This is normal.


Transfer the bacon to a few layered paper towels. Take it to your engagement or function, or eat it all yourself if your heart’s had it too easy lately.


Christmas Crackers

I went home for Christmas, which meant more big baking projects. My favorite was one my dad started doing after I left home, meaning I’d never made it before. I’m talkin’ rosemary garlic crackers.

First we made a big harvest of the rosemary bush in the basement. No matter how much rosemary you pick, it always seems like too much.


We added it and some diced garlic to a flour and salt mix.


Olive oil to hold it all together.


We split the dough into four balls and rolled them out a bit.


We broke out the pasta maker. This was a gift for my dad when I was about five. We’ve made pasta with it a few times over the years, but it turns out pasta is a serious pain to make, not to mention one of the cheapest things you can buy in the store. So now it’s a cracker maker.


We ran the dough through four times, each time on a thinner setting.


We laid the flattened pieces out on parchment paper and baked them.


And just a few minutes later had crisp, savory, rosemary garlic crackers. Best eaten compulsively in the dead of night when the rest of the house is asleep and there’s no harm in banging out just one more episode of Downton Abbey.



It’s Fruitcake Weather

The day after Thanksgiving, I took part in a family tradition. It’s a family tradition that my dad made up, but all traditions have to start somewhere, and we’re up to two generations already. At this rate we’ll take over the world before long.

The tradition is fruitcake, and my dad mass produces it every year to give as Christmas gifts. This year he let me in on the secret. Part of the secret is almost five pounds of maraschino cherries.


The day began with fruit chopping. This is far from the first step, but it was the first step I was home for. Before this came going to the grocery store and spending what my dad calls an embarrassing amount of money on dried fruit and nuts. And before that came making the bowls.


That’s right. Every year he makes a set of matching fruitcake bowls. It’s part of the gift. My mom suspects some people throw away the fruitcake and keep the bowl. For shame!


I started chopping with this knife that’s older than I am. My dad brought it back from some country or other. Just like everything from childhood, it seems smaller now. Except in this case it truly is smaller, because it’s being sharpened into oblivion. My dad is a staunch believer in sharp knives, and this one is old enough it’s starting to show. The blade has an arch to it, and it’s not much for chopping anymore.


I found myself another very sharp knife, and before long we filled two big stockpots with fruit and nuts. Each got about two liters of orange juice.


We stirred it all up.


And let it simmer for three hours until it formed a healthy glop.


Fruitcake is mostly fruit, but you do need a little bit of batter to hold it all together. This batter contained no fewer than ten eggs.


Following a very scientific process, we mixed the fruit goop and the dough together until it looked about right.


Like this.


The next scientific process involved filling up the bowls until they looked about right. While not exact, my dad does have standards. I filled my bowls too high and had to redo them.


One batch of dough and half the fruit got us 13 bowls. We baked them for an hour and a halfish, then did the whole process (minus fruit) over again, making 26 fruitcakes in all.


“But how will these cakes last until Christmas?” I hear you ask, counting the weeks frantically on your fingers. Well first of all, Christmas isn’t very far away, even though I haven’t done any shopping yet. And second of all, we drenched them in enough brandy to kill a horse.


Not even the bravest of microbes would risk it.


There you have it – the Baessler family tradition. Be very nice to me and you might get one next year.


My dad’s the one churning out the bowls and buying the fruit, though, so you have to be nice to him too.