Want to show off at your next potluck? You know you do. Everybody wants to bring the dish that no one can stop talking about. Well, the way to make that happen is to bring the dish that everybody can’t stop eating. I like to mix a jar of jalapeño pepper jelly with a softened block of cream cheese and serve it with some fancy schmancy crackers. This dish is affectionately referred to by friends and family as crack rock, because you just can’t stop eating it until it’s gone.
Want to be even more impressive? Don’t spend six bucks on some processed jelly you pick up at the store. Make your own jalapeño pepper jelly for less than two bucks a jar! I like to take it one step further and grow my own peppers. That’s how I roll. It’s also how you get those beautiful red flecks in the jelly. I have yet to find red jalapeños in the store, so growing my own means I can vine ripen some of them and end up with a pretty red and green flecked jelly. But, you can absolutely make it with all store bought, green peppers and have no difference in taste.
First thing you need to do is to remove the stems, seeds and ribs from the peppers. The ribs are kind of tough and the seeds are where the capsaicin is found. Capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that give them their heat. So, if you put the seeds in, not only do you have to deal with tough little seeds in your jelly, it will be too hot for most people to want to eat.
And speaking of capsaicin, you are going to want to wear gloves while you seed your peppers because that waxy, oily stuff will stick to your hands like glue. For hours. And later, when you are relaxing in front of the tv and mindlessly touch the corner of your eye, you will wonder who placed the fire of Hades directly into your little peepers. Not that I would know from experience.
Next, it’s time to chop up your peppers. The best way to do this is with a food processor. I suppose you could accomplish that with a blender set to chop, but I have never done that, so I don’t really know. I recently and regrettably broke my food processor, so I am currently using one of those tiny 10 dollar jobbies. It does the trick, but I had to cut my peppers first to make them fit well. Using the processor, cut the peppers up pretty small so that they will spread throughout the jelly.
Pretty with the green and red mixed through, isn’t it? If you haven’t prepared your jars and lids yet, stop here and do it. You will need six lids sitting in a sauce pan of hot water on low, leave the rings on the counter. Put the six half-pint jars in your hot water canner (or a big pot with a lid) and cover with water. Turn that on medium and let it all set while you make your jelly.
Now it is time to add the liquid. Peppers have very little of their own to claim, and you have got to have liquid to make jelly. Put the peppers in a large pot (I prefer stainless steel so that you get no flavor or chemicals from the pot) and add two cups of apple cider vinegar. Jelly, of course, has a ton of sugar in it. You need to add 6 cups to this recipe. At this point, you can start cooking or you can play with the color. You can add red and yellow food coloring if you are using red peppers and want that bright red you see in the store. Add green if you want the green version. Leave it as it is, and how the color turns out really depends on the color of the peppers you added. I had a little red with mostly green. With the golden of the cider figured in, mine would have turn out brownish. Not my favorite color for jelly. I wanted a golden reddish color, but I didn’t want to add red dye #40. So, I added a tablespoon of beet juice. Its vibrant red color and lack of distinguishable flavor makes it a perfect natural food dye.
Once you’ve got your color preference figure out, add a teaspoon of butter and cook it over medium high heat, stirring continuously, until it comes to a full boil. Add two packs of liquid pectin (they come two to a package), return to a boil, and cook for one minute.
Take the jelly off of the heat and let it rest for a second until it stops boiling. There will be a thin layer of foam left on top that you need to scrape off. You don’t want to jar foam. It doesn’t taste awesome and it can shorten the lifespan of your jelly. That butter you added? It wasn’t for flavor. The butter cuts down on the amount of foam that builds up so you don’t loose as much of your jelly to foam.
Jarring time! Take your jars out of the water one at a time. Dump the water out of the jars and into the pot, then fill them with jelly, leaving a 1/4″ head space at the stop. If you are not good at eyeballing measurements, use a plastic ruler. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and add a lid. Grab a rim, screw it on all the way, and then back it up a quarter turn. Put the jar back in the water.
Once you have all your jars filled, make sure the water in the pot covers the jars by about an inch. Add water if you have to, and then bring the pot to boil. Cover the pot, back the temp down a bit so it still boils but doesn’t boil over, and process for 10 minutes. Pull the pot off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for another ten. After that, you’re done! Take the jars out of the pot and leave them alone until they have cooled completely. If one of the jars doesn’t seal, just put the jar in the fridge and use it first.
Ok, one more important tip. Do NOT put all those seeds and stems down the garbage disposal. Funny thing about capsaicin; if you put it in the disposal, it produces a noxious cloud of waxy gas that jumps up out of the sink like a little kraken smacking you in the face and leaving you smothered under a cold wet towel for the next half hour while you cry out to the sweet Lord Jesus to remove the fire from your flesh! Not that I would know from experience.
Anywho… here’s the recipe in short form. Enjoy being the star of the show!
Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
1 cup chopped jalapeños (3/4lb if purchasing)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp beet juice (optional, from a can of sliced beets)
2 packs liquid pectin
Combine jalapeños, vinegar, butter and beet juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add pectin. Return to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim foam from the top. Fill jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process 10 minutes in a hot water canner. Remove pot from heat and let jars sit for 10 minutes before removing from canner.