When Trader Joe’s decided to discontinue their Hot Pepper Jelly for the season (or maybe forever, who knows), I started going through hot pepper jelly withdrawals.
I had been dipping veggies into it, making cream cheese dips with it, using it in conjunction with salad dressings to give my salads a blast of heat and extra flavor. You name it, things were hot pepper jelly-licious around here.
And then as quickly as it came into the stores, hot pepper jelly vanished from the stores.
Sort of like Cookie Butter. Sniff.
And so I did something I never thought I was going to do in my whole life: I canned.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Take that, Trader. You traitor. You had me hooked, and then you left me high and dry and without a pepper to cling to.
So I picked up some peppers, did more reading about canning and jelly-making in a 24 hour period than I had in an entire lifetime preceding it, and I got to work.
I admit I was beyond intimidated about this project and had been putting off canning anything, for oh about, thirty years. As a little girl, I watched my mother and grandmother can, and there were a few rules when mom was canning: Leave her alone. Do not talk to her, do not go into the kitchen, do not bother her in any way, shape, or form. Unless you have lost a limb, do not bother her. She’s BUSY!
The memories of boiling pots of water, a mother who was
stressed out to the max a bit frazzled are ingrained forever and after the canning and hard kitchen labor with boiling cauldrons was over, waiting for those jars to seal was it’s own feat.
My sister and I literally tip-toed through the kitchen like mice for the next 24 hours while those precious jars of jelly and jam sealed. Waiting for jars to seal is like putting a colicky baby to bed. Once you set them down, make no noise, walk so quietly that you could be mistaken for a burglar; do not move any extra muscles, do not make jerky motions, or do anything that could cause what you just settled to unsettle. Basically, hold your breath and don’t move.
Hearing the popping sound of a sealing jar meant my sister and I were one step closer, and one jar closer, to being able to move freely through the house. And breathe again.
But I promise you, this project was not anywhere as bad or as hard as I thought it was. I used no “special” equipment and nothing fancy.
This is what you will need for this project:
Peppers, Sugar, Vinegar, Sure-Jell pectin (get the pink boxes not the yellow boxes, and get two boxes)
4 glass jars that are two-cups each, or 8 one-cup jars. I got mine from the grocery store in the baking aisle and I chose regular-mouth (not wide-mouth) jars. Make sure each jar has a ring and a lid as sometimes they are sold separately.
1 big stock pot (something that you’d make a huge pot of chili in) and 1 medium-sized stockpot (6 to 8 quarts)
Something to take the jars out of water with (tongs are nice but I make-shifted with two spatulas that you’d flip eggs with) and rubber gloves
And this, my friends, is so worth it.
Gentleman, start your engines. Ladies, start canning.
This is long, but it’s thorough, in case you really want to try your hand at jelly-making and I hope you do.
Makes 7 to 8 cups of jelly (I used 3 two-cup jars that I filled entirely, and one two-cup jar that was just over halfway full = just over 7 cups of jelly)
1 3/4 cups red peppers, de-seeded and finely diced (1 very large red pepper, the biggest I could find)
1 1/2 cups green peppers, de-seeded and finely diced (1 large green pepper, the biggest I could find)
3/4 cup jalepeno peppers, de-seeded and finely diced (7 jalepeno peppers that were about thumb-sized, each)**
1 cup apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s)
Two 1.75-ounce packets Sure-Jell pectin (use the Pink “For Less or No Sugar Needed” Recipes box; not the Yellow box)
5 cups white sugar
Prepare the glass jars by sterilizing them. Do this by washing jars and bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
Fill a very large stockpot with water and allow it to nearly boil on the stovetop. This may take 15+ minutes given the size of the pot and amount of water, and while waiting, complete the rest of the steps.
Put on a pair of rubber kitchen gloves and finely chop the peppers by hand (or pulse using a food processor) and add them to a medium-sized 6 to 8-quart stock pot, taking care to avoid adding the seeds of the pepper to the mixture, being especially cautious with the jalepeno pepper seeds (I sliced each jalepeno in half, down the middle, and removed 80% of the seeds by hand, before finely chopping them). To the peppers, add the vinegar and Sure-Gell pectin (two packets). Place stockpot on the stovetop and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) and stir constantly. After a full rolling boil is reached, add the sugar. It will foam and bubble up, and if foam is intense, skim it off with a spoon. Return to a full rolling boil and once full rolling boil is reached (it may take a minute or two to reach it) boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat.
Quickly ladle jelly into the sterile jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Cover with flat lids, and screw on bands tightly. Place the jars loosely into the nearly boiling water using tongs or carefully using two spatulas guiding them into the water (or if you have a canning rack, use it and slowly lower jars into pot). The water should cover the jars completely, and should be hot but not boiling when place the jars in. Bring water to a boil, and after it’s boiling, process for 10 to 12 minutes, partially dependent on altitude (the higher you are, the longer you process. San Diego is at sea level and I processed 10 minutes. If you live on a mountain-top, go with 12 minutes).
After processing, remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely, and do not disturb them. Choose their resting place wisely, because where ever they are placed, they need to remain undisturbed and untouched until they seal. You may begin to hear loud pops immediately, or within 24 hours and that means the jar has sealed. If you are uncertain if they’ve sealed, after the jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If the lid is sunken and does not spring back, it’s sealed (success!) If lid springs back, jar is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary. I prefer my pepper jelly chilled and store it in the refrigerator. Unsealed or opened pepper jelly will likely keep for weeks in the refrigerator; and sealed jars of jelly will keep for one year or longer, if stored in a cool, dry place.
Notes: **Chopped peppers should reach 4 cups in total and the Kraft recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of red and green peppers, each, and 1 cup of jalepeno peppers. The Allrecipes recipe calls for 1/4 cup of jalepeno peppers. I used 3/4 cup jalepeno peppers and found this jelly to be very hot. It’s at least twice as hot as the Trader Joe’s Pepper Jelly. I like spicy food and can handle lots of heat and this is even on the edge of my limits. If you are a person who likes things “mild” or do not want your sinuses cleared instantly, go with 1/4 cup jalepenos. The next time I make this I will likely reduce my jalepeno peppers to about 1/2 cup, or about 4-5 peppers, not 7; and I will take care to add fewer seeds.
You could also add yellow or orange peppers, and add all peppers in ratios and quantity to personal taste.
Highly recommended to wear gloves. Chopping peppers in this amount and quantity will irritate or burn your hands and with all the boiling water, keep gloves on.
The whole process from start to finish was done in less than an hour. Canning happens fast and once you begin, things go very fast and so have everything organized: 1 extra large stockpot of nearly boiling water ready and waiting; 1 other large stockpot with peppers, vinegar, pectin; and have the 5 cups of sugar measured out in a bowl and ready to go so that when the full rolling boil is reached, the sugar goes in right away. Then, it all goes into jars and then the jars go into the large stockpot to process. Make sure you know your steps, what you’re doing next, and you’ll be fine. It’s really easy, but be organized.
Disclaimer: I am not a canning expert. This is what I did based on comparing the two recipes linked above, as well as countless other forums. I wrote out the directions and what I did in plain English and as simply as possibly in an attempt to demystify a complicated process but I am not a canning expert and if you have specific questions, Google things and do your own research before you start. Use common sense when canning, such as no small children in the kitchen with all the boiling water. As with any other type of cooking or food handling practice, it is your responsibility to make sure your food is ultimately safe to ingest.
According to my research, Sure-Jell is gluten free and vegan (Sure-Jell contains pectin instead of gelatin), making this jelly gluten free and vegan.
Nothing like putting your deodorant to the test while eating your jelly as your core body temperature raises about ten degrees.
As I stated in the recipe section, the jalepeno peppers provided some serious heat to this jelly. So much so that I probably will never need to use Afrin again and will keep Kleenex stock soaring high as long as this batch of pepper jelly is around.
Of course, as I also mentioned, scale back the amount of jalepenos if you don’t like as much ka-pow or brow-wiping with your jelly as I do. The funny thing about hot and spicy food is the more I eat, the more I want. That, Hurts So Good thing.
I am so glad I made it and got over my canning intimidation.
And I cannot wait to make it again. I started making it on Saturday night at 10:17pm and by 11:15pm it was done and the dishes were done. Canning on a Saturday night is one way parenthood has changed me and is the new form of hot and heavy Saturday night fun.
I’ve been putting the jelly on crackers, dipping carrots and red pepper spears into it, mixing it with cream cheese for a classic hot pepper jelly and cream cheese dip.
I’ve dipped my spoon into it and cherry picked out those crunchy red pepper pieces that are just begging me to eat them, while my nose is dripping and I’m beginning to sweat, but I can’t stop eating this stuff.
Minutes after this was broken down on Sunday morning, I set off a three alarm fire in my mouth and I’ve been loving every last bite since.
Have you ever canned anything?
This was a first for me but I’d like to try my hand at canning peach, apricot, or strawberry jam this summer.
If you’re still intimidated by canning, you could try “freezer jam”, which requires no vats of boiling water. Simply cook the fruit or berries with sugar, add the pectin, place into freezer-safe containers or baggies, and un-thaw as needed. It’s easy and will make quick use of strawberries, blueberries, or other seasonal fruit. Google “strawberry freezer jam” for umpteen recipes and ideas and it’s a good “gateway” jam-making process if you don’t want to try full-out canning.
And if you’re more into blending + condiment making, try Chocolate Coconut Cashew Butter. Just get those earplugs ready.
Do you like hot pepper jelly?
I love it and now I don’t have to wait for TJ’s to re-stock it (possibly) in November or December prior to the holidays.
In terms of taste, my jelly is bolder and hotter for one, but the tangy is tangier, the sweet is sweeter, the sour is more pronounced. It’s just all around, more. More intense, more flavorful.
It’s the difference of a quality vanilla extract versus a cheap imitation vanilla flavoring. Night and day once you’ve had both. Don’t get me wrong, I love the TJ pepper jelly and will buy it if they bring it back, because for price and work involved (i.e. cheap and none), you can’t beat theirs.
Excuse me while I go raise my core body temperature.