Red Pepper Jelly
This year for Christmas presents I made my traditional mustard (yes it counts as a tradition after one year), and then I came into an unexpected windfall. Out to dinner one night with Calin’s father at a fabulous local restaurant, I asked the waiter on a whim if I could have the recipes for the red pepper jelly they serve with their zucchini corn fritters. Shockingly, the waiter thought for a minute, then said “Sure, I don’t see why not. It’s not a secret!” And then he brought me a well-edited sheet with the recipe and quite a few illegible notes, a piece of paper, and a pen.
The way the restaurant makes it is not quite the way it should be made for canning, so I had to make some changes. The first batch definitely turned out more like a sauce – not enough pectin, and not cooked long enough. The recipe specifies a temperature, which so far I have never quite been able to reach, so I just got as close as I could. The second time I got a bit closer; the third time I got impatient and didn’t even get that far. They are all fine, but the ultimate liquidity has been a total variable. I’m going to keep experimenting with how much pectin I use, and how long I cook it (since I think that’s the solution to the temperature problem, maybe?).
From the beginning, it almost looks like this stuff is going to be healthy for you! And then you see that bag of sugar in the background and realize it’s all an illusion. Four peppers (by weight) compared to 6 cups of sugar. Seriously.
Aren’t the peppers pretty, though? You could probably use all red, but I think the green mellows out some of the sweetness. Also, I love my Cuisinart.
This is just chopped peppers. It looks a bit mushy. I do wonder whether the restaurant did something differently to chop them without producing quite so much juice. (In the background of the first picture below you can barely see my little scrap of paper from the restaurant!)
This is peppers and sugar. Still pretty soupy, and I haven’t even added the massive amounts of cider vinegar. (I think it’s 4 cups, but I don’t have it on me, and I’m not quite ready to share the full recipe yet – I asked for it, fair and square!)
When I made the first batch, I hadn’t figured out how to use my thermometer. I got a little help the next time around from Alice, who showed me what that weird little blue case it came in is actually for. I’m glad, because the fork was a very inelegant solution.
This is what happens when you stop paying attention for a moment too long… Glassy calm to EXPLODING! If you try this, definitely remember to keep stirring. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep stirring constantly while holding a thermometer. I think I need to get a big candy thermometer that will hold itself up.
Once I got things back under control and got close enough to the temperature I was supposed to meet (222 degrees!), it was time to pour. This was made infinitely easier by the new toy I bought myself this year. Last year, I got mustard everywhere. This year, thanks to the Amazing Green Funnel Thing, I only lost a few small drips! Just look how cool this thing is. It fits narrow and wide mouth jars, and it collapses into a relatively small thing to fit in a drawer!
I also learned this year that tiny jars are much cuter than big jars. But they cost the same as big jars, and you need twice as many of them. Oh well.
Here’s what you can do with this beautiful jelly once it’s made. I typically just pour it on top of the block of cream cheese, but if you want to keep things tidier, you could just leave it in the jar with a spoon. A friend also just told me in his family, they soften the cream cheese and then mix them both together to make red pepper cream cheese, which sounds delicious.