Once upon a time, I had a surprising encounter with gluten-free vegetarian bacon at Memphis Taproom in Philadelphia. At first I was certain that I had either been served meat or faux meat that would have, no doubt, been laden with wheat gluten as most faux meats are. Alarmedly, I flagged the waiter who assured me it was both vegan AND gluten-free, made from jackfruit.
I played it cool. "Oh, of course," I murmured. I had no clue what the heck a jackfruit was.
I have to digress a bit here and say that I never ate in a Chinese restaurant or had a bagel (and then a not-very-good bagel) until I went to college. My mom was a product of her upbringing in Oklahoma and a product of her generation. This means that the "Chinese" food I ate as a kid was Chun King sweet and sour sauce from a can poured over chicken and rice and baked. Or maybe it was cooked in the electric skillet or crock pot. At any rate, it did not count as Chinese food. I still cannot bring myself to eat anything that is described as sweet and sour.
I should also point out that Oklahoma has a lot of cows and pigs. When I first proclaimed my vegetarianism in 1991 after I had moved to the east coast, some of my homefolk took it personally. It's like choosing to drive an electric car in the land of oil. [My dad was a petroleum engineer and had bumper stickers to hand out during the 1973 oil crisis that read "A country that runs on oil can't afford to run short."] I take great comfort in knowing that mostly nobody spends a great deal of time thinking about what I eat, or imagining that I am indicting them for causing the demise of Elsie or Arnold. I'm really not.
Quite a journey from there to here! Not only do I now know what a jackfruit is, I'm making pork-like food from it. If you are wondering where to get it and you live in a major metropolitan area in North America, look no further than your nearby Asian or Indian grocery store. If you do not have access to such a market, you can get it from Amazon. For this recipe, you need a can of young, green, unsweetened jackfruit in brine. My can cost $1.99.
Oh, and before we go further, it was my intention to make faux bacon and leaned heavily on this recipe. I used maple syrup in the marinade, which made it a little too sweet to be the bacon I sought. The outcome was quite like I remember pulled pork, so instead of calling it a failure, I'm calling it a discovery. I'll try bacon again later, without the maple syrup. If you like a sweet bacon, try this! Feel free to change the name to vegetarian gluten-free maple bacon! It can be your own serendipitous mealtime adventure.
Vegetarian Gluten-Free Maple Pulled Pork
1 can of young green jackfruit in brine
2 Tablespoons of gluten-free liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon of gluten-free tamari sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
ground black pepper to taste
Drain the jackfruit. Slice it thin. Its consistency reminded me of canned tuna. Blot it with a paper towel to absorb some of the excess liquid. Put it in a bowl.
Thoroughly combine the remaining ingredients into a marinade and pour it over the jackfruit, stirring gently. Let the jackfruit stand in the marinade for 20 minutes to half an hour until absorbed.
While the marinading is happening, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When it's time, spread the jackfruit on the baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally while it's baking to be sure to not overcook it. Remove it from the oven and use it as a flavorful addition to sandwiches, pizza, nachos, beans, or eggs. I made an open-faced cheese and faux pork sandwich with mustard. I put under the broiler until the cheese melted and the gluten-free roll got toasty. Delish, and a very fun departure from my usual lunch!