Friday, November 26, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Jelly

Ok.... this is VERY VERY exciting, for two reasons.

1. I love this pepper jelly, and
2. it's made from our very own peppers.

Basically, the balcony gardens of myself and Feeesh, my co-gardener across the city, were producing more peppers than any two people could possibly consume. So, we read on the internet that you could save them for later by just sticking them in the freezer in a ziplock, and we subsequently began hoarding them for this very purpose.
 The recipe we used for this momentous occasion is one that my grandmother used to make, and that my Mom still makes around Christmas. You can see that this is a well-used recipe card.
The first thing you'll notice was obviously added later: RUBBER GLOVES. Seriously, you'll regret it if you get hands covered in jalapeno, partly because everything you touch (like, your itchy nose) will also get covered in jalapeno. Just wear the gloves. We also actually all were a little overwhelmed by the pepper fumes in the air, so you might want to make sure you have a window open.

The next important thing is that you are preserving this jelly, and the steps to making sure the jars are sealed are all critically important to makes sure you don't make someone sick when they try to have a spicy jelly snack in six months. You need to get glass jars, with new metal rings and flat lids. You can re-use the jars later, but not the lids. Now, our technique is as follows- we have moved on from the wax referenced on the card. Take the screw on rings and the lids, and heat them in boiling water. After it boils, then let it simmer, keeping them in there and under water until it is time to use them. For the jars, wash them very well in hot water. While they are still wet, stick them in a 250 degree oven. Leave them in the oven until you're ready to use them.

Now, lets make jelly!

First, seed your peppers, and then chop them in a food processor. You want to end up with the following proportions (the type is flexible, as long as you pick peppers with the same general level of spiciness).

--3/4c finely chopped: Anaheim chilis and Green pepper chilis- NOT bell peppers including at least 20 serrano (this count is variable based on pepper size)

--1/2c chopped yellow chilis (we used our banana peppers) and jalapenos, plus about 3 dried red peppers

Some of our peppers had turned red on the vine, which actually gave us a nice mix of color.

Put these peppers in a clean pot on the stove with 6c sugar (yep, 6c) and 1.5c apple cider vinegar. Bring to a solid boil. Once it is boiling and all the sugar is most definitely smoothly dissolved, turn off and add a 6oz pack of pectin (if you are interested, pectin, unlike gelatin, is vegan), 2T finely grated lemon rind- I used my microplaner (you do not want to skimp on this, even though its quite a bit of lemon rind, it adds a delicious freshness), 10 drops Tabasco, and 4 drops green food coloring. Mix very very well.

Now, pull out your jars, which is best accomplished using a jar lifter (they've thought of everything, really). We made 2 batches, and each filled about 7 jars. Ladel the mixture into all the jars making sure to evenly distribute the pepper bits.
The critical next step is to wipe off the rims of the jars with a warm damp paper towel. The rim MUST BE CLEAN... any residual stickiness will interfere with the sealing. Then screw on the lids, and turn the jars upside down, and the heat will help make the rubber seal on the lid adhere to the glass.
After they are cool, you can turn them over (see how cute they are??). Now, you're going to want to test the seal- once the jelly has settled to the bottom of the jar leaving a little air space, you can tap the top of them- the ones that are sealed will make a nice clinking noise, whereas the ones that aren't sealed kind of make a dull plonk. If you have a doubtfully sealed one, no matter, just eat that one first, it'll keep as long as normal jam that has been opened does in the fridge.
Now, I only really have one serving suggestion for this, because it is the only way I've ever had it. But, let me tell you, once you taste it, you're not going to look any further either.
Serve spread on crackers- under the jelly, you need a layer of some kind of soft cheese. Cream cheese works, so do the very convenient Laughing Cow cheese triangles. If you want to serve it in a party scenario, you can get a square of cream cheese and kind of pour the jelly over the top so that it can be scooped onto crackers together. It is spicy, and sweet, and extremely delicious!!!

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