We love hot pepper jelly. Who doesn’t? Right? A sweet and spicy hot pepper jelly or jam made with plenty of peppers can be enjoyed so many ways. It has become a family favorite to be enjoyed during the holidays at our house making it a terrific holiday gift.
We serve it as an appetizer at Thanksgiving. Just spoon the jelly over some cream cheese or goat cheese on a pretty plate with a few crackers or toasted french bread slices nearby. Your guests can help themselves, and you can focus on the turkey. But it can also be used in sauces or directly over pork and chicken. It is great on ice cream and cheesecake too! Really just use your imagination. Peanut butter and hot pepper jelly, yes it works!
Last summer was not a good year for peppers, or at least not in my garden, so I have been looking forward to making jelly this year. It seems every time I make it, it gets a little hotter! I started with Jalapenos and you know they were not very hot. But it was still very good. Over the years, the kids have grown up and now they like things spicy. We took a road trip yesterday to see my son whom is away at college. We did the normal run to Walmart to buy the necessary snacks and electronic gadgets. And then we asked him where he wanted to go for dinner.
His first response was sushi, but we couldn’t find a place that was open on the holiday weekend in a small town. So the second choice was Thai food, and I had read about a place with good recommendations. We decided to try it. If you have gone for Thai, you know there is the 1-5 scale of heat! The waitress said that the 2 was lip numbing, so my son went for the 3 heat. It was not hot enough for him and he had to request the chili sauce. Things have definitely changed over the years.
This summer, I have been growing Poblano/ Ancho and Dragon Cayenne peppers in my garden for making hot pepper jelly. I knew that Poblano’s were mild and thought they would be good for stuffing. But the Dragon Cayenne peppers are small and red, so that should mean some hot peppers! I chose these peppers to up my” hot game” this year! I have a bumper crop of both.
My first batch, is always a test to check how hot the peppers are this growing season. They can really vary. I also grow different peppers from year to year, and so I need to decide how to mix the peppers. You can use any hot peppers you have growing or that you have picked up at the farmer’s market for this kitchen fun! As you can see I left my peppers on the bush until they turned red. This will give the jelly a pretty red color, and it will make the peppers hotter too. If you use green peppers, you can add a red bell pepper for color. I prefer this method over adding food coloring. This will also reduce the heat level for a more mild pepper jelly.
I washed all of my peppers and Thai basil from the garden in a vinegar wash, letting them soak for about 5-10 minutes, rinsed well with clean water and let air dry. I love adding the Thai basil to the jelly. It adds a great depth of flavor making the jelly extra special. People know there is something in there, but they don’t know what it is. With a side by side taste test, they liked the jelly containing the Thai basil much more. It was very popular the first year I made it.
Lets start! Gather all of your supplies. Get your large canning pot heating! I usually do a second large pot to sterilize my jars. They should be heated to 180 degrees F for at least 10 minutes and then I leave them to simmer until needed. I also heat another small pan of water. I can use this to add more water to the canning pot, but I also use it to heat my jar lids.
Be sure to chop your peppers wearing food safe nitrile or vinyl gloves and don’t touch your face! The Cayenne peppers are too small to remove the seeds, so I just pulled off the stem and chopped them in half. The Poblanos are much larger peppers, so I cut them in half and removed the stems and seeds.
I rinsed the seeds of the Poblanos off at the sink and got a little too close to the fumes rising from them every time. These are the mild peppers, so it surprised me. Beware of the fumes! I chopped them a couple of times and added them to the Vitamix with the Cayennes.
It turned out to be about 5 ounces of peppers altogether. I also added one red bell pepper to this first batch since I had them in the refrigerator. I added the organic apple cider vinegar and pulsed the blender until the peppers were chopped, but not too fine. We don’t want a puree.
Pour the pepper-vinegar mix into a saucepan or dutch oven. Add the sugar, lemon juice, salt and Thai basil. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Stir frequently, to help release the flavors. I usually let it go longer hoping even more flavor will be pulled out.
At this point, you need to decide to make jelly or jam. If you leave all of the fruit in, then it is jam. The jam will be hotter and thicker. However, you can strain all of the peppers out leaving a pretty, clear red jelly. I think the jelly looks prettier when serving and in the jars too. Today, I decided to strain out the peppers and seeds.
I used two layers of cheesecloth laid inside a strainer, set in a bowl. I poured the hot mixture through the cheesecloth, and then used the wooden spoon to push as much juice through to the bowl below. You can also add a small portion of the peppers back into the cleared jelly. I have done this before and I really like the look.
I did not do that today, but decided to save the pepper mix and stored it in a mason jar. It should keep for a week or so in the refrigerator. I think it will add some zip to everything and anything that I cook this week.
Then I poured the cleared jelly directly back into the same pot, the one used for simmering earlier. Since I did not wash the pan, it still had a few seeds and pepper pieces sticking to the sides of the pan. I am okay with these bits in the jelly. I think it advertises the main ingredient. But if you want the jelly perfectly clear, then you need to wash the pan.
Return the heat under the pan to high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Squeeze the liquid pectin into the pot and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat to your work space. I used my cutting board and a towel to protect my counter. Pull a jar out of your simmering water and using a funnel fill your jar leaving a 1/4 inch head space with a ladle. A canning ruler is really handy, but you can estimate. Make sure the rim is clean! The funnel really helps here, but if needed, wipe the rim with a clean cloth or paper towel. Place the lid on and tighten the ring.
Process the filled jars in your boiling canning pot for 10 minutes. Check your elevation to see if you need to add more time! I am at 500 ft above see level, so 1000 ft or less is 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let set for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove the hot jars to a towel covered counter or cutting board and let cool overnight. Do not disturb the jars while cooling. Listen for the lids to pop!
Don’t they look pretty! They are a gorgeous red color and I like the clear jelly with just a few peppers and seeds.
I then used all the remaining peppers and did a second larger batch adjusting the other ingredients too. I had 14 oz of peppers, so I doubled everything. This one turned out to be hotter than the first test batch. Simply more peppers and no red bell pepper in this batch!
I will enjoy these all winter long…. well, if I don’t give them away as gifts. Maybe just a few gifts!
Here is the basic recipe that I followed. I always read my “Ball Blue Book guide to preserving” by Ball, before starting and check their recipes. I need the refresher to be sure I am following all of the safety rules on canning. Please read about preserving and canning before you start any canning project.
- 6-8 oz of peppers
- 2 oz Dragon Cheyenne Peppers
- 3 oz Poblano or Ancho Peppers with seeds or without
- 1 Red bell pepper, chopped, optional
- 1 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar – raw, organic
- 4 cups sugar
- 0.3 oz of Thai Basil, torn
- 1/4 cup Lemon juice, bottled, organic
- 3 oz liquid fruit pectin
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Sterilize six – 8oz. canning jars and lids in boiling water.
- Prepare your peppers by removing stems. The seeds and ribs are optional and these will make your jelly hotter. Place in Vitamix and pulse the blender until the peppers are finely chopped, but not a puree. Do not over blend if you want to keep some of the mixture in the jelly.
- Pour the peppers into a large saucepan or dutch oven.
- Add sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Optional step – Pour mixture through cheesecloth for a clear jelly and pour liquid back into your pan. If you leave the peppers in to make jam, you will need more jars!
- Return heat to high and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in pectin and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Ladle jelly or jam into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Cover with flat lids and screw on bands until finger tight.
- Place jars into canner with hot simmering water completely covering the jars. Water should be at least 1-2 inch above jars.
- Bring water to a rolling boil and process the jars for 10 minutes. Maintain the water depth and rolling boil the entire time.
- Turn off the heat and let set for 5 minutes before removing jars.
- Remove jars and set on a dry towel or cutting board to cool overnight. Leave 1-2 inches between jars. The next day, check the jar seals by pressing centers of lids with your finger. If the lid springs back, the lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary. Or you can reprocess the jar.
Properly processed, these jars can be stored for one year in a cool, dark cabinet. It is recommended to remove the bands and wash the bottles removing and food before storing. I label each bottle with the a name, heat level, any special ingredients, such as, the Thia basil, and the year.
Enjoy served with your favorite recipes!
Try Thai basil in your next jelly and let me know what you think! Do you use a different herb in your jam or jelly? Please share your ideas. I would love to hear them!