Sunday, November 28, 2010


Alright, I know I said I was going to give you a rundown of different brands of pepper jellies available on the market, but after some consideration, I realized that the best pepper jelly I've ever had wasn't from a store, and that I have never been truly satisfied with one that I have bought. The only logical conclusion here was to undertake an experiment in jelly making.

I learned that it is ridiculously easy if you have a couple of hours free in an afternoon.

This is what you need:

1. Jars. The size is up to you, I chose 8 oz.
2. All of this stuff:

As usual, when venturing into new recipe territory, I read as much as I possibly can, glean what I think is good and run with it. Most of the recipes I saw called for a bunch of filler fruit like apples or bell peppers and food colouring for some antiquated reason. But let's be honest here, if you want hot pepper jelly, you don't need a bunch of other things getting in the way of your spice kick. There are 9 jalapenos in the photo, but I ended up chopping up a total of 13 to get to the volume that I needed of about two cups. There are some other peppers there too, not really sure what type, but they looked hot, so I threw them in for good measure.

Another thing I noticed with a lot of the recipes that I saw was that none of them had more than 10 hot peppers in them. Lame.

Step One.

Clean and then boil your jars. I guess you could skip the cleaning part as the boiling sterilizes them, but these were brand new, and who knows where they were before they got to me.

Step Two.

Mince the peppers. Here is the only place where you can control how much kick your final jelly has. Every recipe I saw said to seed all of the peppers, essentially robbing 90% of the spice from your jelly. As we all know, capsaicin, (that's the spicy stuff) is stored in the seed and the membrane of the peppers. I'm not saying you need to leave it all in, I for one, only left half of the seeds untouched. If you want to put them all in, you go right ahead. Just remember, you can add spice in, but it's near impossible to take it out. Unless your making jelly, in which case you kind of need to decide right now, as you can't really add if after it sets either. So make a decision. Also, imagine me wearing gloves in the next photo, which you will most certainly want to do. The oil in these guys takes a few washes to really get off.

Step Three.

Boil your minced peppers and your apple cider vinegar together for about 10 minutes. I was following the portions listed on the particular brand of Pectin that I bought, as I didn't want to mess with the chemistry involved or I could risk having it not set. For this stuff, 2 + 2/3 cups of vinegar to 2 cups of peppers was about right. (I scaled the recipe up for those of you that have this brand and don't see these quantities listed anywhere.) Oh, and turn on your fan or open your windows, trust me on that one.

It should look like this after the 10 minutes:

Step Four.

Mix your pectin and your sugar together. You really want to make sure your pectin is blended well throughout here. So stir it up real good. 2.5 tablespoons of pectin to 4 cups of sugar.

Dubious Step, the Fifth.

Calcium water? This was the only thing that caught me off guard with this pectin, there was a second smaller packet in the box which contains a powdered calcium which they get you to mix with water to make this. Apparently, this allows you to make lower sugar recipes which will still set properly. I don't know about the veracity of that, but whatever, I'm not a pectin manufacturer, so who am I to say. Add 4 Tablespoons...or don't. I added it, I've tried the jelly, and I'm here typing this now so it didn't kill me.

Step Six.

Add your sugar & pectin mixture to your boiling peppers and apple cider vinegar. You need to stir this pretty vigorously for a couple of minutes to make sure your sugar doesn't form little clumps. Try not to spill, you may want to use a larger pot than I did as you will soon be dealing with pretty molten sugar, which is quite obviously pretty sticky. Once it's all blended, bring it back to a boil for about 5 minutes. Then remove from heat.

Step Seven.

Jar it up. Remove your jars from the water (which you want to leave on a simmer by the way) and carefully ladle your fantastic mixture into as many jars as it will fill.

The portion guide that I followed said it would make 2-4 cups of liquid. I doubled my portions so that would mean 4-8. I got 5 eight oz jars filled, so it was about right, although I would have been happier if it was closer to 8.

Step Eight.

Clean your rims. This step is really important, if your rims aren't clean you wont get a proper seal, and your lids wont pop down. That little vacuum pop is what's going to tell you it's fresh. So get a damp cloth and wipe up all of the little spills and drips off the top edge, as well as in the grooves of the thread on the side of the jar.

Step Nine.

Close 'em up. Your jars should still be pretty hot at this point. Imagine my hand is protected by a cloth or an oven mitt in the photo below, and not pulling away in pain. You want to tighten the lids pretty well.

Step Ten.

Reboil your now full jars in water enough to submerge them completely for another 10 minutes. Use that water you left on a simmer. This is the part that will make the vacuum.

After the time is up, bust them out and wait. The jam and jars need to cool sufficiently before the lids will pop down. So just be patient. I heard the first pop after about 30 mins. And the last after about an hour, but don't be discouraged if they don't, some stuff I read said it can take into the next day... any experienced jam makers out there who can attest to this?

The colour is really nice, and totally natural.

Taking her out for a test drive:

Some really nice high notes from the apple cider vinegar, and an amazing slow burn which builds progressively the more you eat. Really delicious! Much better than any store bought brand I've ever had.

We made a healthy dent the first time in, can't wait to try it on a freshly toasted poppy seed bagel with plain cream cheese.

Hope I've inspired you to try your own...



Morgan Web Developer

1 comment: