Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back in the Saddle: Hot Pepper Jelly

Someone commented to me that apparently I was no longer writing a blog, and it struck me that it has been a bit since I've written. My bad. I'm back.

Phil took M camping on Memorial Day weekend, which left me and T home to entertain ourselves. After a five-hour marathon at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, where he played with all three of the Thomas the Tank Engine railroad setups, followed the next day by a visit to a toy store so he could play with yet another Thomas the Tank Engine railroad, I was itching for a little non-Useful Engine time. So while he watched a Thomas video, I made some hot pepper jelly using hot peppers and bell peppers I'd bought at the farmer's market on Saturday.

This is one of my favorites. The red and green color of the peppers actually makes it a great holiday gift, if you're so inclined. I tend to horde it all, myself. This is great on cornbread with chili, as well as a nice glaze for chicken or fish. Also, if guests come over unexpectedly and start acting peckish, you can whip up a super-quick appetizer: Spread cream cheese on a plate, top with the hot pepper jelly, and serve with crackers. This, like the Rhubarb Marmalade recipe I posted in the spring, is a perfect first canning project.

Hot Pepper Jelly

1/2 cup finely diced hot peppers
1/2 cup finely diced bell peppers
6-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 3-oz. package liquid pectin (Cert-o or Ball brand are the ones I know)

Sterilize 7 or 8 half-pint canning jars and their lids. They will also have rings that go hold the lids in place, but these just need to be clean, not sterilized. To sterilize, stick them in boiling water for several minutes. Meanwhile...

Mix the peppers, sugar, and apple cider in a good-sized non-reactive pan. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and boil gently for about 7 minutes, give or take a minute, stirring frequently. The little peppers will get limp and the sugar will be dissolved. Pour in the liquid pectin and and boil for another 60 seconds, stirring constantly; the pectin helps firm up ("set") the jelly.

Spoon the hot jelly into the sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar; you don't want to fill it all the way to the top of the jar, or the jar won't be able to seal. Also, if any jelly gets around the rim of the jar, wipe it clean or the jar won't seal. Put the dome lids on the canning jars and screw on the lid bands. To seal the jars, either flip them upside down for about ten minutes, and then flip them back, or process them in a water-bath canner (a big pot that is made for canning and has a unit that lifts the jars out easily).

Because I wanted to be sure these would seal, I processed them in a water-bath canner, but the flip-over method would have been fine.

Total, this took me about 30 minutes, and made just about seven half-pint jars of jam. We've already opened the first of them; the jelly is sweet but a little tangy -- a really nice combination.

One aesthetic note: Try for a nice mix of color. If you're using only jalapenos for the hot peppers, then use red bell peppers. If you're using red hot peppers, using green bell peppers. The mix of colors is pretty.

It's early morning and T just started squawking. So I need to go, get him out from under his Thomas quilt, smooth his Thomas jammies, and no doubt find the Thomas engine that he likes to grip while falling asleep, which always falls under his bed during the night. We'll see you on the Island of Sodor.



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