Tuesday 24 November 2015

Hot Damn! Hot Pepper Jelly!

Well that dreaded holiday Christmas is on its way and already my family is dropping rather heavy hints as to what they want from me.

Hot.  Pepper.  Jelly.

You see just over decade ago a recipe landed in my email.  At the time I was on some kind of forum and people were sharing all kinds of recipes just before Christmas, like now.  And one of them had the title "YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS!!!"

Now usually, as a matter of principle, I hate it when my email tells me what to do.  (Fuck you. email!  You don't know my life!)  But somewhere in the title was an indication that this recipe was for some kind of preserve and I was looking for recipes just like this to make as Christmas gifts.  This recipe won out over all the others because its main ingredient was jalapeño peppers which are a lot cheaper than out of season fruits and berries.  And that was great because I had like, no money.

I had never even tasted pepper jelly before.  The results were pretty damn good!  The recipients of the jelly (mostly my family members) went nuts over it.  It has since become a tradition on Christmas for people to pretend to hide/steal each other's pepper jelly.

If you've never had pepper jelly before you are missing out on one of the most versatile condiments ever.  Great with chicken, pork, lamb, fish, cheese and eggs.  We had it with our cheese and crackers on Christmas Eve and with our scrambled eggs in the morning.  It even went well with the turkey!

Then, when I had Frack, I stopped making it for a few years.  This jelly is actually very labour intensive and hazardous to make and I just wasn't down for trying to process many dozens of hot peppers while looking after a baby.  My family went through full-on withdrawal.  My Mom started cruising local fairs and farmers markets to get her fix but none of them were good enough.

I many times offered to teach them how to make their own but no one ever took me up on the offer until recently.

A couple of years ago I was missing some pepper jelly so much I went and bought a jar.  I didn't realize there was such a difference between commercial pepper jelly and my recipe!  I ended up buying several disappointing jars and I have yet to find one that comes close so last year I started making it again.

This summer I made a batch and shared it with a co-worker.  She recently got married to a fine gentlemen of excellent taste who apparently liked the jelly so much he ate it all and is begging her for more (Thank you, Sir...I am flattered!).  And since she was kind enough to return the jar the jelly came in (AHEM, family members) I have agreed to share with her (and you readers) my recipe for Hot Pepper Jelly (hot damn!)

Hot Pepper Jelly

(In the interest of brevity I am going to be leaving out some steps that are routine for home canning.  If you are inexperienced at canning please first check out here and here for more information)

4 Cups Jalapeño and Scotch Bonnet/Habañero/Ghost peppers, seeded and chopped (about 40 peppers)

2 Teaspoons tobasco sauce
3/4 Cup cider vinegar
3 1/2 Cups sugar
3 oz pectin (about 84 grams)

rubber gloves
protective eyewear
breathing mask/.bandanna

A bunch (?) of jars (usually about 3-4 1/2 pint jars)

Don't even think about trying this without a food processor.  I did one year.  Hand chopped 40 hot peppers.  It was hell.

I always do this recipe with 40 peppers and I always have chopped pepper left over, but the amount varies, depending on the size of the peppers that year.  Sometimes there is enough to make two batches (Yay, me!) and other times there's only about a cup.  I've used those leftover bits in salsa, mixed into a bunch of cream cheese for a jalapeño spread, or just mulched it into my garden to keep the damn squirrels/deer/whatever the hell eats every damn tulip in my garden out.  It doesn't seem to work.  They probably like it.  Muy caliente!

What you don't want is to be in the middle of all this home canning and suddenly run out of your main ingredient.  This happened to me one time and I had already bought every jalapeño the closest grocery store had.  We ended up having to drive around hunting down jalapeños wherever we could in a snow storm.  So learn to live with some leftover pepper bits.

If you're worried about the heat skip the scarier peppers and just stick to jalapeños.  You'll get a sweet jelly with maybe a hint of spice on the end.  In my opinion this jelly has never been spicy enough so each year I substitute in a few of the hotter peppers.  This last batch had Scotch Bonnet (about 4) and the results were pretty good, but still not spicy enough.

Having said that, do not underestimate the jalapeño!  Just standing over that number of processed jalapeños will cause your eyes to water and your nose and throat to burn.  You need to wear all protective gear and even then there is always a chance there is hot pepper juice lurking somewhere.  Do not put in contact lenses for like, a day or two after this.  You WILL regret it.

In a large, non-reactive pan, over med-high heat, combine peppers, tobasco, vinegar and sugar.  Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in the pectin.  Return to heat and boil exactly 1 minute, then remove from heat.  Stirring frequently to prevent pepper bits from surfacing, skim off the foam (if there is any).  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, wipe, rims, seal and place on rack in deep kettle.  Cover with boiling water and boil ten minutes.  Remove from boiling water and place on rack to cool.

If you have done everything right your hands and arms will definitely not be feeling kind of warm right now.  A warmth which will gradually turn to heat which will shortly thereafter burn with the fire of a thousand suns and have you crying tears of pain to a bitch of a pharmacist who has no time for your shit.

"You're sure Solarcaine won't work?  So you're telling me nothing will work?  What do you mean, 'soak it in milk'?  Milk does nothing!  That's why I came to you!!!"

 If you do end up with a pepper juice burn you can tell that pharmacist to shove it.  Solarcaine totally works.