Friday, September 4, 2009

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly from Scratch

I'm hoping to plant some fall weather veggies this weekend so I've been trying to harvest some of what's there now. I decided that my puny jalapeno plants aren't going to get much bigger, so I made the executive decision to harvest a bunch of them, along with some tiny sweet multi-colored peppers.

They are also known as Christmas peppers because the plant itself looks like Christmas tree lights.

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly is so 1990s, but it's so dang good! Especially with cream cheese on crackers.

CAVEAT: I canned my first anything in May of this year. I am a novice and you are advised to follow canning methods from the likes of Ball and other folks that do this for a living. Be warned.

Here's what you need. Liquid pectin, sugar, peppers and cider vinegar. And make sure you bust open the wafer thin plastic bag that the bulk sugar comes in, just for extra clean up fun.

I tweaked a recipe for Sparkling Sweet Pepper Jelly from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. This is an incredible source for those of us that don't want to do 18 quarts of pickled peppers or dilly beans. My sister ordered it for herself last year and I promptly hijacked it to bring it with me to Dushanbe. [Yes, I ordered her a new one.]

I wanted my jelly to be hot so I ramped up the jalapenos to sweet pepper ratio. But first things first. Use these.

Actually, surgical gloves would work best. These were big and cumbersome and made finely dicing the peppers awkward. But burning fingers for 12 hours was not something I was interested in repeating. And in case you need to know this, soaking your fingers in milk and oil (separately) will relieve some of the burning, but you still think that your finger-sausages will explode. If you've ever deseeded a pound of hot peppers without gloves before, you know of what I speak.

Back to the peppers. You need one cup of deseeded, finely chopped peppers - whatever ratio you want. It helps to use a spoon to deseed the hot ones and to get the pith out.

Place the peppers in a medium sauce pan.

Add 1 1/2 cups of vinegar. I chose apple cider because that's what I had on hand.

Next add the whopping six cups of sugar. It dissolves quickly so you can pretend you only added 2 cups.

Bring this to a full boil over high heat. In the meantime, warm the canning jars you'll be using.

Once the sugar mixture comes to a boil, let it boil for one minute. Since making this batch, I've learned why adding a bit of butter to the mixture is helpful. It helps control the rapid rise of the mixture when it boils hard for that minute. Emphasis on rapid rise. More on that in a bit.

Once the minute of hard boiling is reached, add the pectin and return to a boil for another minute and then remove from the heat.

Take your hot jars out.

Ladle the jelly into the hot jars, allowing 1/2 inch of head space.

The lids also need to be warmed for about five minutes. There's a lot of timing that goes into all this, which I've never been very good at. Those go on next.

Then you screw on the rings finger tight. Meaning, not really super tight. You need the air bubbles inside to escape during the hot water bath processing. And these rings actually can come off after whatever you are canning has sat for 24 hours.

Put those back into the water and turn the heat up. Once you reach a rolling boil, start counting your processing time, which you must take elevation into consideration. I think Dushanbe is about 3,000 feet so I added an extra five minutes.

After the hot water bath, put the jars on a cutting board or a towel and don't move them for 24 hours. You'll quickly hear the gratifying sound of pops as the jars seal. After 24 hours, you need to make sure that all of the lids are concave and properly sealed. Your done!

Hey, one of these is not like the other and doesn't belong.

Only 2/3 full, I see.

Remember the reference to butter and rapid rise? Because I didn't use butter, and because this was my first time making this, I had no idea what was in store for me when I reached the hard violent boil.

One step forward, four steps back.

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