Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Leslie’s Jalapeño Jelly

My friend Leslie makes the best Jalapeño Jelly I’ve ever had: It is addictive, delectable, and makes an incomparable hostess gift. Yesterday, a too-kind Leslie took the time from her busy day to show me exactly how she prepares it. Leslie has served this jelly over cream cheese with crackers, and as an accompaniment to sausages and other meats. She’s used it as a wet rub for chicken, too. While she generally uses home-grown peppers in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where We Live, she’s also used Mexican jalapeños when she visits there. She says those peppers give her jelly a nice “bite.” Leslie prefers to mellow this jelly for a few weeks, adding that she never waits that long to consume the first jar!

Leslie’s Jalapeño Jelly:

1 large, sweet green bell pepper (“capsicum”)
16 medium jalapeño peppers, each 4-to-5 in. in length, divided
1-½ c. cider vinegar
A pinch or grinding of salt
4-¼ c. granulated sugar 
4 oz. (120 mL) liquid pectin (see Note)

Rinse, wipe, and section bell pepper and 12 jalapeño peppers into halves or quarters. Remove seeds from bell pepper; leave jalapeño pepper seeds intact (Set remaining 4 whole jalapeño peppers aside for later use). Cut prepared bell and jalapeño peppers into 1-in. chunks. Add bell and jalapeño peppers with seeds to food processor or blender, working in batches. Process until finely chopped. 

Transfer chopped peppers to large, heavy-based pot. Stir in cider vinegar. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 15-to-20 min. 

While peppers are simmering, section remaining 4 jalapeño peppers, removing seeds. Hand-chop fine to equal ¾-to-1 c. (To minimize contact with the pungent peppers, Leslie does the chopping job faster with a hand-chopper; she doesn’t want them chopped as finely as a blender or food processor would do).

Strain simmered cider vinegar-jalapeño mixture through at least two layers of cheesecloth or a reusable jelly bag, saving juice to produce 1 c. liquid. Discard pulp.

Pour liquid into same large pot, adding salt and sugar, stirring until both dissolve. When mixture reaches rolling boil, boil 1 min. before stirring in liquid pectin. Add finely chopped jalapeños, bringing mixture to boil over medium-high heat.

Leaving ¼-in. headspace, ladle into sterilized jars (see Further Note). Seal with new, never-used lids that have been immersed in simmering water. Screw lids on moderately tight; screw more tightly after processing jars 30 min. in hot-water bath (see One Last Note). 

Cool jars almost to room temperature. Chill. When jars are half-cooled and jelly has not fully set but lids have “popped” to indicate an airtight seal, Leslie “jiggles” each jar several times to prevent the finely chopped jalapeño peppers and seeds from floating to the top. This recipe yields approximately five 250 mL jars.

Note: Liquid pectin sells in different-sized packages around the world. Use a measuring cup to get exactly the amount this recipe needs. 

Further Note: Jams and jellies are tremendously easy to make - so I was surprised to  read that the method for making them has changed. If you make jams, jellies, and preserves, the information and Q&A on this website (including the notes about paraffin wax seals!) are a must-read. See:

Even if you think you know the method for sterilizing jars, this method has also changed! For the latest scoop, see:

One Last Note: Jelly jars are considerably smaller than the standard, 1-qt. (1 L) jars used in home-canning most foods. Because of that, Leslie does not use her large home canner, but instead preserves jams and jellies in a hot-water bath using a regular, covered pot deep enough to fully immerse the jars and their tops with at least an inch of boiling water. In place of the rack home canning pots have, Leslie secures the jars on a metal steamer to keep them from touching the hot base of the pot that sits directly on the stove top. When Leslie preserves other foods, she uses her large home canner.

As I read over the instructions for this recipe, I fear I’ve made everything sound very complicated. I promise you, it’s not! Leslie and I want you to enjoy your canning experience - particularly with a jelly as delicious as this one - but we also want you to do it with confidence and in safety.

Use 16 medium-sized jalapeños, divided into two batches.

Chop them and bell peppers. 

In batches, chop jalapeños with seeds and seeded bell peppers.

The result will be a very fine chop resembling relish.

Spoon them into a large pot.

Very large! You’ll need it as the recipe progresses.

Add cider vinegar. Bring just to the boil before simmering.

Leslie affixes a reusable jelly bag over a clean pitcher.

A great improvisation and smart thinking!

As the pepper-vinegar mixture simmers, section and
seed four remaining 
jalapeño peppers

Use hand chopper for a fine dice

This is the result!

And this is the hand-chopper! I want one of these, Santa! 

As for those cooked peppers …

Spoon them into jelly bag, allowing the jelly to drip through.

Immerse jars in boiling water to sterilize at least 15 min. 

Measure 1 c. pungent pepper juice.

Return juice to pot in which peppers were cooked.

Add sugar ...

And a grinding of salt.

Bring to rolling boil 1 min.

Like so! 

Add pectin ...

And seeded, finely chopped jalapeños. Stir well.

Transfer jars from simmering water when ready to use. 
Lids and screw tops await in more simmering water.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars.

Wipe any drips from jar with clean paper towel. Center   
lid over jar top; screw ring moderately tight.  

Process jars 30 min. in boiling hot-water bath. This is
’s improvisation in place of a large canner!

Re-tighten lids of processed jars. All done in less than 2 hr.  
from start to finish! Estimated cost: $1.25 per jar.

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