Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sweet and Spicy: No, Not Just Me, the Pepper Jelly Too!

We get a lot of peppers of all sorts from our vegetable CSA.  Sweet ones, mild ones, hot ones, uber-hot ones...and I'm one of those freaks who loves pepper flavor, but doesn't like crunching straight into a raw pepper.  As far as spice goes, I tend to stay on the mid-to-mild side of things as well.  I don't mind a kick, but I hate things that burn just for the spite of it.  So sometimes, when the CSA is pepper-plentiful, I get in over my head with the hot peppers.

I can grab a serrano or two and whip up some salsa, I might chop a red chili and throw it in some beef broh with onions and noodles for a warming lunch, but when I have handfuls of pepper and an hour or so on my hands, I can whip up a mean bunch of pepper jelly.  You can do it too.

Chop up some sweet peppers, about 3/4 cups chopped.  Throw them right into a one cup measure.  Then chop up some hot peppers and fill the measure to a full cup.  Keep a few seeds in there, if you want more heat.  I usually take most of them out, but I don't stress if a few find their way into the mix.  Feel free to play with the ratio, more or less spice as you like.  This is what works for me.  I had a variety of hot peppers: some Hungarian wax, some chilies, some serranos, and some...I really am not even sure.

Please note: BE CAREUL when working with hot peppers!  Wearing gloves is not an insane thought.  Watch any open cuts.  Do NOT rub your face, especially your eyes!  And wash your hands right away.  Seriously, pepper spray is made from this burns like crazy!

Throw all the peppers into a food processor and chop them up into a pepper sludge.  The smaller the chop, the more it will blend into your jelly, which I think is a good thing.

Pour your blended peppers into a large pot.  Add a cup and a half of vinegar.  You can use whatever you have on hand, except I would skip would probably add too much flavor and not have quite the right properties for a jelly.  This time, I used some white wine vinegar that I had an almost-empty bottle of, and some plain white vinegar.  Then add 6 cups of sugar.  Yes, sugar.  Don't back off of it, or it won't set up right or taste right.  It's not like you're going to down a whole jar of this by yourself or anything.  Chill out, sugar police.

Bring that all to a boil, and simmer it for about 20 minutes.  Make sure all the sugar dissolves, and watch for foaming that may try to boil over.  Some recipes have you add green food coloring, but since I am kind of anti-artificial coloring, I skip it.  Plus, I kind of like the color-speckled look that it has naturally.  After it's cooked down for a while, add one pouch of liquid pectin and cook it for another 2 minutes.  This will help to get that firmer jelly texture.

Can it as you would any jelly in a water bath.  Here is a good resource for instructions.  This makes about 6 half-pints of jelly, plus a little extra for snacking on.

See?  It looks pretty on its own, without any fakey green drops.  Right?  Tell me it looks pretty!

Pepper jelly is one of those oddities, a gourmet confection, something hoighty toighty people buy at a specialty market for $12 a jar and bring as an appetizer to their uppity friends' shindig on the coast.  Or, in my case, something a friend whips up with love, has sitting in her pantry for a while, and brings along to a casual dinner with friends because she didn't have a whole lot of time to make something snazzy.  Either way, put some of this over a softened block of cream cheese, spread it on some buttery crackers, and it becomes addictive.  You will have no leftovers, shindig or casual get-together.

It's also delicious on meat, like in my recipe for Jammy Chicken.  Or, again, great for gifting!

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