I have been wanting to make homemade red pepper jelly for an extraordinarily long time. One thing my younger sister says she likes about me is that if I say I’m going to do something I go ahead and do it, usually asap. I am all talk and all action, a deadly combination ;) One day I will learn to keep my mouth shut and my to-do list will shrink significantly.
But red pepper jelly has been hovering on the outskirts of my to-do list for a good couple years, since receiving homemade red pepper jelly from a friend in Ottawa and realizing this can be made at home! This kind of perpetually unfaced niggling task makes me a little twitchy.
I’ve been avoiding it, you see, because this required that I take on the daunting task of canning.
Canning is something central to the Canadian food scene, and I’m so honoured to have this recipe included in the Canadian Food Experience Project, a movement spearheaded by the most charming Valerie, aka A Canadian Foodie. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity, part of which involves preserving the fresh bounty of spring, summer, and fall through long and frozen winters across most of the country.
Growing up, my mom canned all sorts of thing,s from jam to peaches to pickled beets, every summer, and I remember helping many a time. There is something deeply satisfying about row upon row of cans stocked in the pantry, all with nicely “popped” lids indicating a health-safe seal. However, helping is entirely different than doing the whole process myself from start to finish.
So what do I do when I want to undertake a daunting task I’ve been putting off for fear of my own incompetence? I call my big sister, naturally, and ask her to join me in my escapades. What I lack in common sense she makes up for in spades, and she happens to love red pepper jelly too so she was a pretty easy sell.
My sweet sister-in-law provided me with more than an armload of red peppers, my mother-in-law had all the necessary canning accessories stashed in our garage, and there could be no more excuses.
And wonder of wonders, as is the case almost 100% of the time, when you actually suck it up and do something you’ve been putting off, it’s pretty dang easy. We made 12 adorable little jars of red pepper jelly in under an hour, start to finish, while taking care of the seven children aged 6 and under we claim as our own. (Granted, at least 5 of those children came into the kitchen howling and wailing about some grand injustice at the very moment our bubbling hot mixture needed to be poured quickly into our hot jars, but we all emerged unscathed.)
I can say with great confidence that this was a huge success.
Much to our surprise (I don’t know why, since that was the idea), this red pepper jelly tasted exactly like every $6+ version we’ve bought at various markets and grocery stores. The texture is spot on, thick and soft (and -ahem- gelly?), and the flavour is sweet and bright with just a tiny hint of heat from the jalapeno and chili flakes. You could certainly increase the chili flakes if you like a spicier condiment.
This is a beautiful accompaniment to cream cheese, Brie, sharp cheddar, Havarti, and, well, pretty much any of your favourite cheeses. Having a jar of this and brick of cream cheese in your fridge means you can be perpetually ready for last minute guests. Add some fruit or nuts and entertaining doesn’t get much easier than that!
Do you have something that intimidates you in the kitchen? I hope it doesn’t take you as long as me to conquer it :) If you like step-by-step visuals, Stephanie did a lovely post on the making of this very Red Pepper Jelly on her beautiful site!
- 2 cups coarsely chopped, seeded red bell peppers
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- ¼-1/2 tsp crushed chile flakes
- 2 pouches (each 3oz/85 mL) liquid pectin
- Prepare canner, jars, and lids:
- Place 12 4-oz jars in large canning pot or Dutch oven (ideally on a rack for easy removal). Add enough water to fill jars to the top and just cover them with water. Bring water to a low simmer (do not boil).
- In separate sauce pan, cover lids with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep lids hot until you need them, then remove with tongs. Wash screw bands with soap and water and rinse thoroughly - do not heat them, you want to be able to handle them.
- In blender or food processor, purée peppers and 1 cup vinegar until smooth.
- In large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine pepper puree, remaining 1 cup vinegar, sugar, and crushed chiles. Bring to a boil over high heat (it will bubble up significantly - use your largest saucepan!) Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and quickly skim off any thick foam.
- Quick pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving ¼" headspace. Wipe rims of jars to ensure they are clean. Center lid on jar and screw band on until fingertip tight (don't over-tighten).
- Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, put lid on canner, and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and turn off heat. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, keeping them as straight as possible, to a flat surface where they can sit for 24 hours. Don't dry them at this point, any water on the tops will evaporate on its own.
- After 24 hours, check all lids for seal - you should hear them popping quite quickly as they seal, and the lids should not flex when pushed after 24 hours. If any have not sealed, store in the fridge and use within a month. Canned jars are best used within a year.
Source: Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. 2006. Judi Kingry & Lauren Devine (eds.) Robert Rose Publishers.