The Beginning & Red Pepper Jelly

May 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

Greetings to all,

This is the first blog post of Red pepper, Green pepper (tentative title). I thought that an appropriate recipe for our first post would involve some peppers, ‘cuz we like peppers around here. Speaking of we, let me introduce myself, my name is Michelle and I am food’s biggest fan, hopefully not literally. I am about to start my junior year of college in a little school called UCLA (scary) to study anthropology. I have been living in the small town of San Luis Obispo for the past two years while going to school at the local community college, Cuesta College (go cougars!). But now I am moving house yet again to start a whole new chapter of my life. Alongside me is my loving, caring, and amazingly talented boyfriend, Sam. He puts up with my cooking adventures and is always a great sport about trying the occasionally weird things I make. Sam is a writer, musician and an amazing composer, so I’ll probably link you to his compositions from time to time. At the moment he is being thrust out in the world–weeks away from being done with college and headed into the real world, so you can safely say that we are both a little apprehensive and also really excited about the next few months. At the moment it looks like we will be taking to the beaches and the warm sun of San Diego for the summer. Sam has been offered a job at very large video game company to be a music intern for the summer. I on the other hand have no specific plans, but hopefully will find something to do that can keep me busy for the next three months. I foresee a lot of cooking, which is always a good thing. After that, we will then be heading up to smoggy, I mean lovely, Los Angeles.


Now on to the food, this is a recipe for red pepper jelly. A bit of a strange first post, but it holds sentimental value to me. This is something that I had a lot of growing up in Nicaragua. I guess that is something else I should have mentioned, I am a latina and proud of it. Sure, I may look Caucasian but I have fiery latin blood running through me–not actually as scary as it sounds but I have been known to get a bit loud and rambunctious from time to time. I grew up in Nicaragua, and lived there for nearly 15 years. I left when I went off to college, and have yet to go back. I miss it desperately and that is why this recipe is so close to my heart because it reminds me of my old home. My mom used to buy bags of this jelly at the local bakery and use it in dips for parties. It was one of those weird things that was always in our fridge, something I wouldn’t have really though twice at the time. I grew to miss it, so I tried to find it in the grocery store…no luck. After some more searching I finally found a jar of it for sale at Safeway. It was a disappointment, far too sugary and not enough kick. I decided to put my search on hold after that. The craving was pushed to the back of my mind for many months until I was reading recipes online and saw a posting for red pepper jelly. I had never even considered to make it myself, I mean isn’t that dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing? Well, it was pretty darn easy, and fairly safe as well. I managed to come out of it with only one bad burn, pretty good if you knew me. And, guess what, the jelly actually tasted the way I had remember it. I little thicker perhaps but just right aside from that.

This is really great on wheat thins with a little smear of cream cheese and a spoonful of jelly right on top. I managed to eat my way through a box of wheat thins very quickly this way. My mom used to pour this jelly over a whole brick of cream cheese and let people dig in for themselves. This makes for an unusual, yet surprisingly tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Don’t knock it ’til you try it! I imagine this can be great with a lot of other things too, we just ate it all before we had the chance to try out some other ideas.

I had never canned anything before this recipe but once I tried it I was on a roll. I also made a roasted garlic jelly, and a strawberry chipotle sauce. Then I made cute little gift packages and sent one of each flavor to my mom and to Sam’s mom for Mother’s day. I do believe that they both liked them, we sure did enjoy them here. I still have a few jars that I must figure out what to do with. They are great because they last a year or more, unrefrigerated, if they have been correctly canned. So perhaps they will become my reserve Christmas gifts. I recommend that you give this a try even if you are hesitant, it will be easier than you think and a nifty thing to add to your repertoire.

The three flavors

Red Pepper Jelly

Makes 4-5 half-pint (8 oz.) jars. From Better than Store-Bought.

Ingredients:

3 big red bell peppers, seeded, deribbed, and chopped (around 1 1/2 cups once chopped)*
3 red jalapeno peppers finely chopped (around 1/2 cup once chopped)*
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (Available here or in most grocery stores)

Directions:

Combine the peppers with the cider vinegar in a stainless-steel or enameled saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with two layers of cheesecloth. Drain without squeezing. Discard the pulp. (Note: this mixture can be made ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use).

Measure 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into a 4-quart stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Add the salt and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir over high head until the mixture comes to a full boil that can’t be stirred down. Add pectin. Return to a boil for 1 minute; remove from heat. Skim off the foam.

Divide the jelly into hot, sterilized, half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Top with lids and rings*. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12-24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within a week.

Notes:

*Alternative you can make green pepper jelly by substituting the red bell peppers for green bell peppers and the red jalapenos for green jalapenos.

*When canning you must process your jars, lids and rings before you fill them. Direction on how to do this will most likely be on the packaging from the jar. Basically what you have to do is: boil your jars for about ten minutes, and in a separate pot you simmer (not boil) the lids and rings for ten minutes as well. Then you keep them all in warm water until you are about to use them. A more knowledgeable and detailed explanation can be found here.

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