My mom used to make pepper jelly. We ate it on Ritz crackers with cream cheese, a truly delectable combo. She liked to give the jars away as gifts but always kept a few for us to eat. I'm not sure what inspired her to make it in the first place (Mom, can you enlighten us in the comments?) but she loves to can and create handmade things. Her recipe called for red peppers, jalapenos, and sugar, creating a condiment with sweet, bright, back-of-your-throat heat.
Now that I'd seen it served in ways other than on a cracker, I started to think about the possibilities of pepper jelly. It would be dreamy with goat cheese, it could make a tasty condiment spread thin on a sandwich, it could lend heat and sweetness to fried chicken. Dan says he wants to make pepper jelly pappardelle, but that sounds more like smarty pants wordplay than dinner to me.
Inspired by our recent pickle-making session, we decided to tackle pepper jelly. Like pickling, making jelly is really not that hard. For a little chopping, boiling, and stirring, you're rewarded with golden jars of spicy, fruity, tangy jelly flecked with bits of peppers. Whether you decide to make a small batch and keep it in the refrigerator, or make the jam shelf-stable by preserving it, this is an easy, fun afternoon project.
Before it even really solidified, we ate several spoonfuls of the jelly, and had a taste test with a piece of Bûcheron goat cheese (on paper towels--classy!), which Dan pronounced "&@!&*%G amazing." The highest endorsement. We may even put it on the label if we go into the pepper jelly business.
I will warn you of one thing. When handling the jalapenos you should WEAR GLOVES. I know, you might not have a clean pair hanging around the house. But a quick trip to the store for a package of gloves will prevent you from having to sleep with your moisturizer-slicked mitts dangling off of the side of the bed lest you touch your (or your husband's) face or eyes. Not to mention the tingling, burning sensation that lasted for a few days. This is starting to sound like a Cialis commercial.
So, yeah. Protect your hands, please. This jelly is so delicious, it is worth the price of gloves.
Spicy Pepper Jelly
Adapted from Real Cajun by Donald Link. He says to let the pureed vinegar-pepper mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight, so plan to do that step in advance.
(Makes about 5 pint-sized jars)
2 red bell peppers
10 jalapeno peppers (we used about 8; taste your peppers to determine how hot they are)
1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 (1 3/4 ounces) box powdered pectin powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups sugar
Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and cut into half-inch pieces. Combine the peppers with the vinegar in a blender and puree. Transfer to a 1-quart container, add the apple juice, and refrigerate overnight to develop flavor. Make sure that there are 4 cups; if not, add enough apple juice to make 4 cups. Add the pectin and salt, bring to a boil for over medium heat while stirring. Add sugar and return to a rolling boil for 1 minute while stirring. Remove from heat and skim any foam that has risen to the surface. Ladle into four hot *sterilized 8-ounce canning jars (see note), seal, and process according to the jar manufacturer's instructions. Let cool on a rack and check that the jars have sealed properly.
*Notes on sterilizing: Wash your canning jars, lids, and screw bands in hot, soapy water, then rinse them well. Use a clean towel to dry the bands. To sterilize, place the empty jars on a rack in a boiling-water canner or a deep stockpot and add enough hot water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil, then boil for 10 minutes. Similarly, heat the lids in the water until a thermometer registers 180°F (do not let boil), then remove from heat. Canning tongs will help with all of this.