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RED JALAPENO JELLY

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This spring I optimistically planted six tomato plants, five chiles (three Jalapeno, two poblano) and six squash plants. The squash plants are a bunch of worthless slackers. The tomatoes got a late start but are making up for it now with avalanches of yellow pear-shaped tomatoes and a crop of beefsteaks coming on. The chiles found their footing early and have been producing like there’s no tomorrow. I had planned to make salsa – loads and loads of salsa – but the main ingredients didn’t all ripen at the same time. So, jelly.

Most of the Jalapeno jelly recipes require a couple of green bell peppers, which seems a distraction and beside the point; also, you had to go through all that jelly bag draining nonsense which is tiresome. I found this one online and it’s much simpler. I adapted it ever so slightly to go with what I had.

RED JALAPENO JELLY

  • 12 ounces red Jalapenos (about 12 medium)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 three-ounce pouches of liquid pectin
  • red food coloring

Before you start with the recipe, prepare six 8-ounce canning jars with lids and ring bands by heating in large pot of simmering water, which will be used to process the filled jars later.

I decided that 14 smallish Jalapenos plus two red poblanos equaled 12 ounces.

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Remove the stems from peppers, slice in half, and remove most of the seeds. The seeds and ribs are where the heat is so don’t be too scrupulous about removing them all. Mo hotta, mo betta.

Cut into pieces and put in a blender or a food processor with one cup of the vinegar, and blitz. Do not strain.

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Combine the pureed chiles with the remaining 1 cup vinegar and the sugar in a largish pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar, and boil over medium heat, stirring as needed. Do not allow to boil over because you will have the stickiest mess ever.

The mixture will turn from red to orange.

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Meanwhile, cut the tops off the two pouches of liquid pectin and prop them up in a cup.

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After ten minutes, add the pectin. Quickly squeeze the pouches to get all the contents out and into the boiling liquid. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will go from foamy and puffy to condensed and shiny.

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Remove from heat. Add food coloring if using (I found it took about 1/4 teaspoon to get the red color I wanted) and skim off any foam.

Ladle the hot jelly into hot jars. I find a canning funnel invaluable here.

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Leave about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel (anything on the rim may interfere with sealing). Fish a ring and band out of the simmering water and apply, tightening comfortably by hand (these jars are hot so use a mitt if necessary). As jars are filled, place them back into the pot of simmering water. When all jars are filled and in the hot water, water should cover jars by 1″.

Adjust heat so water is at a fast simmer. Do not boil violently as this may cause jars to rattle around and interfere with the necessary vacuum sealing. Process for 10 minutes.

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Remove jars with a jar lifter and place on a folded towel away from drafts. Let cool completely. When sealed, lids should stay down when pressed. Any that do not stay down should be stored in the refrigerator. The recipe said it made 5 8-ounce jars but I got 5 1/2.

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If what you have are green Jalapenos, they work fine in this – just use green food coloring.

If you want a much hotter jelly, add hotter chilis (though I do think the Jalapenos make a good base note with their slightly fruity, distinctive flavor) – try a serrano or two, a chipotle (available dried or in adobo) for a hot smoked flavor, or go on up the heat scale to pequins, Thai bird, Scotch Bonnets or habaneros. Hey, it’s your creation.

This is usually presented on a bar of cream cheese with crackers, but it also makes a nice glaze for chicken, ham or pork. I think it would be interesting used as a filling for chocolate cake. And of course, spread it on toast or biscuits.

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ROASTED PEPPERS

I know people who actually hate bell peppers, and I like them despite this incomprehensible flaw. I have always liked bell peppers, even the green bell peppers which seem to elicit most of the hatred. My grandmother used them in her potato soup  and no one ever complained. That was back in the Dark Ages, children, when green bell peppers were all that was available. Well, you could sometimes get red bell peppers, but you had to take out a loan to buy them. Nowadays the sweet red bells are easily available (at least here in California) as well as yellow, orange, purple, brown, and good old green ones – and they are very frequently the same price as the green ones, sometimes even cheaper.

If you kind of sort of like bell peppers, you might like them better if you roasted them. They become sweeter and tender, and can easily be blended into other dishes such as soups, hummus, sauces (think red pepper Hollandaise), and so forth. Not just the sweet bells, but all kinds of capsicum are easily roasted. Unless I am making a very fast pico de gallo with fresh raw peppers, I always roast a variety of chili peppers when I make salsa.  They are all roasted exactly the same way – Jalapenos, Anaheims, pasillas, serranos, etc.  You can buy jars of all kinds of peppers already roasted, peeled, and marinated, but this is kind of fun to do and far cheaper than store-bought.

Here I am using the broiler unit in an electric stove, with the pepper just a few inches under the heat element. If you have a gas range, just put the pepper/chili directly on a low flame and turn it as needed until blackened in the way described. They can also be done on a barbecue (gas or charcoal) or over a wood fire.

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Turn the pepper as necessary so the whole thing blackens and blisters. Don’t freak if some spots are missed. It’ll be okay.

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When the whole pepper is more or less black, remove it and pop it in a bag, paper or plastic, and crimp the bag shut. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes while you go do something else.

You will find the the blackened skin comes off pretty easily under cool running water.

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When most of the skin has been removed (do not obsess about little tiny bits of blackened skin that won’t come off), cut the pepper open and scoop out the seeds. In hot chilis, the seeds and interior ribs are the source of the heat, so either wear gloves or wash your hands VERY well after doing seed surgery. Even after you wash your hands, avoid touching any sensitive body parts for several hours. Trust me on this.

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Then cut out the tough stem (if you haven’t already) and voila! You have a roasted pepper.

Nigella Lawson suggests slicing such peppers and immersing them in a piquant vinaigrette with anchovies. I have done this and it was a delicious little salad-y accompaniment to a hamburger, and the anchovies were not at all fishy. I also like these roasted peppers tossed into a green salad or mixed with sliced avocados and minced red onion. They are delicious spread out on a steak, combined with sauteed onions or mushrooms or alone.  Combined with decent diced tomatoes and fresh basil (I know it’s now autumn and such things are rare), they make a great garnish for broiled/sauteed fish such as salmon or cod. They’re sublime in an omelet with a spoonful of sour cream and some minced red onion. A puree of them with some chicken broth and perhaps canned coconut milk and cilantro (maybe a little Thai curry paste too) will make a fabulous soup.

Chili peppers of varying heat are done the same way, and I combine several types with tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, onion, cumin, and whatever else is lying around to make salsa. Beware that some of the hotter types, especially if done over a flame, can emit fumes that will make you cough like mad, but do not let that prevent you from trying this method. They are worth the suffering.

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