About a month ago, I had the great fortune of flying to Yuma, Arizona for a Natural Delights Medjool Date Blogger Summit. Now, if you have been following me for even a short time, you know that I love Medjool Dates and frequently use them as an alternative to refined sweeteners.
This summit was such a natural fit for me and the type of recipes that I create at home and share with you all, I was beyond excited to attend and learn more about a product that has already long been a staple in my kitchen!
Although our time in Yuma was condensed, it was well thought out and optimized so that we could not only see firsthand the growing process but experience it. Our hosts arranged for us to be driven out to the date palm fields, suited in safety harnesses and hoisted up into the (very tall!) trees to harvest Medjool Dates for ourselves.
After our farm tour, we headed to the packing facility to learn more about how the Medjool Dates are processed, sorted and packed for retail sale. I was very pleased to find out that there is only a very slight difference between organically grown Natural Delights Medjool Dates and conventional.
The conventional date trees are treated with fertilizer during the growing season. That is IT – no chemical sprays, pesticides or other noxious substances are forced onto the dates themselves. How awesome is that? (Note: I ONLY know this to be true for Natural Delights Medjool Dates as we toured growers farms in their cooperative so this may NOT be true for other brands.)
The Medjool Date growing process is still a very natural one that is quite labor intensive. I have to admit, even though we always bought them anyway, I used to think Medjool Dates were pricey.
After seeing the pain-staking care that goes into caring for the Date Palms and harvesting the dates (by hand!) without huge machines or chemicals, I have changed my tune!
Some other fun and interesting facts I learned about Medjool Dates and wanted to share with you are:
- Medjool Dates originate in Morocco and 11 trees were imported to the United States in 1927 (originally to Nevada) to escape a disease that was killing Date Palms.
- Of those 11 original Date Palms, 6 are still growing (now in the Bard Valley) and are affectionately called “The Big Six”.
- There are now over 250,000 Date Palms in the Bard Valley and EVERY SINGLE ONE can be traced back to one of The Big Six. How’s that for knowing where your food is from right?
- Refrigerating (or even freezing if really soft and fresh) Medjool Dates extends their shelf life and they can last up to a year when kept at cool temperatures.
- I was fascinated to learn that Natural Delights is a cooperative of Bard Valley growers who tend to and harvest their own farms but share costs and decisions when it comes to quality control, packaging and marketing. A great group of people! You can learn more about them here.
- There is a great FAQ on the bottom of this page that answers questions about gluten-free, halal, kosher, storage, nutritional and more.
So, while we were there learning about all things Medjool Date, we were also eating Medjools non-stop (and I mean NON-STOP), whether in the palms of our hand while in the fields or woven into a gourmet and fabulous dish at one of the cocktail hours, lunches or dinners that our hosts so graciously provided.
You are probably wondering “who” I am talking about when I say, “we” so let me introduce you to the group of fabulous bloggers and writers who attended the summit…
Check out their sites and what they had to say about our experience…
- Caroline – Chocolate and Carrots
- Catherine – Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth
- Cynthia – Cynthia David Blog
- Jackie – The Seaside Baker
- Kim – Lovin’ From The Oven Part I and Part II
- Nicole – Pinch My Salt
- Theresa – My Friend in Food
I think it was at lunch after the farm tour that it became obvious to me that I needed to make some Medjool Date Bacon Jam when I got home. Medjool Dates and bacon are a classic combo and very often found wrapped together and served as an appetizer.We had many variations of this during our trip (some with bacon, some with prosciutto, some with spicy sauces, etc.) that the flavor combo became engraved into my subconscious, waiting to be turned into something new and delicious.
So without further ado, here is the recipe!
- While this is time intensive, it is mostly hands-off cooking time. You do have to stir the jam every 15 minutes or so for the last hour and a half but other than that, it pretty much cooks itself.
- While Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates hosted our entire trip, this post and recipe is not sponsored or endorsed by them. I am choosing to share my experience, knowledge and opinions with you because I had a great time!
- A HUGE Thank you again to the fabulous, kind and hospitable growers who welcomed us to their fields and even one of their homes for dinner!
- 1 pound uncooked hickory smoked bacon (nitrate free, preservative free), cut into ½” pieces
- 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 12 ounces Medjool Dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- ½ cup organic, raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1½ cups cold water
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Once hot, add bacon pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes until most of the fat is rendered and bacon bits are crispy.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove crisp bacon pieces to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
- Carefully (!) pour bacon fat into a glass container or mason jar.
- Return 2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pot and add chopped garlic and onion.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown and caramelize, 35 to 40 minutes. Add cooked bacon pieces, chopped dates, apple cider vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 45 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue simmering for an additional one and a half hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so until jam is caramelized and dark brown with most of the liquid evaporated out.
- Allow to cool, place into glass containers and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!