I started growing hot peppers because, well, it seemed like it would be a cool thing to do. Somewhere during my first growing season, it dawned on me that I don't actually have any use for many pounds of jalapenos, red peppers, and habaneros... especially since they all show up within about 6 weeks at the end of the summer, and also especially since I'm the only one in the household who really likes hot stuff.
So naturally, I had to learn to make preserves: I had a cherished Texas cookbook (Texas On the Halfshell: A Cookbook of Tex-Mex, Barbecue, Chili and Lone Star Delights) that had a recipe for jalapeno jelly, and when I went to buy jars and canning supplies, I found the Ball Blue Book guide to home canning, which had a recipe for hot peppers. I was in business.
Here are the recipes, mostly from the above sources, with a few tweaks of my own:
4-6 large jalapenos [My peppers are smallish, so I use 6-8.]
4 green bell peppers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
5 cups sugar
6 oz liquid pectin
Procedure: The original recipe says to seed and devein all the peppers, but because I like a little extra heat, I leave in the seeds and veins of the jalapenos; the seeds in the jelly don't bother me. If you like even more heat, you can add a single small habanero. Chop all peppers fine. Liquify peppers in a blender or food processor with the vinegar, dividing into 3 or 4 shifts if necessary. Mix liquified pepper/vinegar mixture with sugar and boil gently for 10 minutes. Add pectin and boil hard for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and skim any foam (if necessary; I usually find there's very little foam). Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace and wipe the jar tops clean if necessary. Cap with 2-piece canning lids. Place in a cool place and don't disturb for several hours (preferably overnight). Once the jars have cooled and the jelly set, check the lids for a tight vacuum seal. Yield: About 6 half-pint jars, or twice that many 4 oz jars.
Serving suggestion: The classic application is on Ritz crackers with a smear of cream cheese. The combination of crispy, salty, creamy, sweet, and hot is to die for!
Pickled Hot Peppers
~2-3 lb hot peppers
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Procedure: The original Blue Book recipe calls for a mix of banana peppers, jalapenos, and serranos, but I simply use whatever I have at hand... mostly jalapenos, supplemented with habaneros, cayennes, and (this year) red Portugals. You can leave small peppers like jalapenos whole for pickling, but I like to cut them into the classic nacho-style rings. Mix the vinegar, water, and garlic in a large saucepot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack peppers, in whatever combinations desired, into hot, sterilized canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Ladle in hot pickling liquid, also leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap with 2-piece canning lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yield: About 5 pint jars, or the equivalent in other sizes (half-pint jars are a convenient size for taking to cookouts or potluck dinners).
Two notes relevant to both these recipes:
- If you haven't canned before, check the Blue Book for a description of the equipment and general procedures, including especially how to prepare jars and lids.
- And when working with hot peppers, you might want to consider wearing gloves. I haven't actually received any burns from handling peppers barehanded, but I've heard of others who have... and if you don't wear gloves, your hands will retain some chemical heat for at least a couple days, no matter how much you wash. So be careful where you put them. If you know what I mean... ;^)
1 Fair warning: I'm going to construe cooking broadly to include stuff like canning, ice cream making, mixology, concocting homemade liqueurs, and (if I ever get 'round to it) brewing, in addition to, you know, actual cooking. I fear it's the only way I'll have much to talk about here!