When this whole canning bug hit, there was one thing on my mind. Pepper jelly. One of my favorite treats, and something I never even considered trying to make. Jelly just seemed so… complicated. In reality? It’s anything but.
I remember my aunt always showing up at family gatherings with a jar or two of her homemade pepper jelly. We would devour dozens of crackers and bits of bread smothered with cream cheese and the crystal clear jelly. It is one of those delicacies that even though you’ve really only eaten it a handful of times in your life, you always remember just how delicious it was.
Lucky for us she was more than willing to share her (not so secret) recipe.
This jelly is tart, very sweet (it’s practically dessert), with a hint of peppery kick. I’ve seen recipes for green variations, but never being a fan of green peppers, I didn’t even consider them.
I’ve made two separate batches, the first with about 6 (fairly mild) red jalapenos. To call it mild is an understatement. Wanting a bit more kick, I did a second batch with two red pizza peppers, one very hot jalapeno, and a Thai chili. This one has a kick, but I still wouldn’t call it “hot”. Depending on your tolerance for spice, err on the side of too much heat, as you strain most of it out anyway. I’d be interested in trying a Habanero pepper version – that may be enough to give it some real heat.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to wear gloves when you chop the peppers. I learned the hard way that even mild bell peppers, if you chop enough of them, will burn your bare skin, not to mention more sensitive areas like eyes and lips. Not fun.
The recipe promised I’d get 5 jars. The first batch, I got 3 1/2. The second batch, I got 4 and a spoonful. I’m not sure where that extra jar’s worth of jelly is going (am I simmering it for too long, maybe?) but that’s the reality of canning, I guess. Additionally, the recipe originally called for the addition of food coloring. If you use all red peppers, your “red” pepper jelly is naturally going to be more of a pale orange. Don’t you dare add any green ones or your jelly will end up looking like muck. But if you must have a bright red jelly, by all means add some food coloring at the end.
Don’t forget! We’re giving away a super prize pack of nearly 15 dozen fresh California figs! Giveaway ends on Thursday, so enter now for your chance to win!
Red Pepper Jelly
Makes 4-5 half-pint jars. Adapted from Better than Store-Bought.
3 medium sweet read peppers, seeded, deribbed, and chopped or ground (to make 1 2/3 cups, with juice)
Enough small, fresh red hot peppers (jalapeno, thai chilies, or pizza peppers work well), seeded, deribbed, and coarsely chopped (to make about 1/2 cup)
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 pouch Certa liquid pectin
Combine the peppers with the cider vinegar in a stainless-steel or enameled saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with two layers of cheesecloth. Drain without squeezing. Discard the pulp. (Note: this infusion can be made ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use).
Measure 1 1/2 cups of the infusion into a 4-quart stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Add the salt and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir over high head until the mixture comes to a full boil that can't be stirred down. Add pectin. Return to a boil for 1 minute; remove from heat. Skim off the foam.
Divide the jelly into hot, sterilized, half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Top with lids and rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12-24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within a week.