Susan Romanoff is creative director at Gardener's Supply.
INSPIRED by the variety of salsas and moles in central Texas, where Gardener's Supply photographs our summer products, I planted several varieties of chile peppers in my garden. I planned to preserve their flavors for the winter months ahead, and to share my newfound culinary interest with my northern friends and neighbors.
I admit it: I was intimidated by the idea of canning and preserving. But after a little research, I decided that jelly-making would be an unexpectedly easy method of keeping those spicy flavors alive. In fact, the process was quick and simple enough that I'm now inspired to preserve any fruit or vegetable that crosses my path!
I took an inventory of my own chiles and decided which varieties would be best-suited to provide the "hot" ingredients in the jelly. I selected two small yellow chiles: Aji Limon and Trinidad Perfume, as well as Ancho San Martin.
Most recipes use about nine parts bell pepper to one part hot chiles, so I satisfied the need for green bell peppers with my family's weekly trip to our local farmer's market.
Once home, I gathered canning jars, a large stock pot, jar tongs and the rest of my ingredients and got to work. With help from my husband, the entire project lasted about 1-1/2 hours. The results were a zesty jelly with a little kick — a perfect, piquant accent atop cream cheese and crackers.
For more ways to preserve the food you grow, see the list of articles in Harvest-Keeping.
I use a hot-water-bath canning method. Follow the detailed instructions in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Wear surgical gloves when handling chile peppers. Remove and discard stems, seeds and white ribs from bell and chile peppers. Chop roughly, then pulse in a food processor to create a uniform mince. I kept the bell and chile peppers separate so I could adjust the amount of heat to taste, by adding the chile peppers to the cooking mixture in batches.
In a large saucepan, combine the chopped bell peppers, the desired amount of chopped chile peppers (to taste) and the vinegar. Heat to a full boil, stirring in pectin gradually to avoid lumps. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil for an additional 3 minutes. Skim foam from the surface of the jelly mixture.
Ladle hot jelly into clean, warm canning jars, prepared according to USDA instructions. Leave 1/4 inch of headroom between the top of the jar and the jelly. Wipe any spills from the top edge of the lid. Place lids on the jars finger-tight.
Place filled and covered jars in a boiling water bath that is deep enough to cover the jars with 1 to 2 inches of water, using a canner rack to hold and lower the jars into the boiling water. Boil jars, covered, for 10 minutes.
Using jar tongs, remove jars from the hot water. Place them on a rack to cool. Listen for a "pinging" sound as the lids form a tight seal.
Leave jars to cool for 24 hours. Check that each jar has a firm seal: Lids should remain in a "down" position and not pop up when pressed. If the lid does pop up, simply refrigerate the jar and use it within the next few weeks.
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