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Live and Learn October 19, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, just general griping, mirth & woe, random stuff.

Did you ever do something that, while not appearing to be a really Bad Idea, certainly turned out to be not a Good Idea?

PhotobucketI seem to do that a lot.  In fact, I think “live and learn” should be my motto – I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of decades trying not to make the same mistakes twice.

Without getting into specifics (who would do THAT on a blog?), let’s just say I’ve made a couple of doozies.  Fortunately, this doesn’t count as one of those, though.  This is more – what’s the word I want here? – well, let me tell you what happened, then you tell me.

PhotobucketSo anyway.

Every now and then, I’ll stumble upon a recipe (I know, you’re shocked, right?) that calls for hot pepper jelly.  Since I’ve never had hot pepper jelly in the house, I always end up passing those recipes by.

Then, you know, it got to be pepper season, and the stalls at the market were full of hot peppers – big ones, little ones, red ones, green ones, yellow and white ones.  I even saw one basket of peppers marked HOT – HOT – HOT – HOT with several exclamation points – I avoided that like the plague!  So anyway, I picked up a basket of comparatively mild jalapeños and said “I’m gonna make me some hot pepper jelly!”


Then I tossed them in the fridge and asked The Internet for a recipe.

Now here’s the thing about canning.  I know there are millions of people out there who can all sorts of random things, and it’s just fine.  But you’re keeping stuff – on the shelf with no refrigeration – for months (maybe even years!).  I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure whatever I’m doing has been tested not just for taste, but for safety.  There’s a whole world of science-y stuff that’s pretty important when it comes to home canning, and frankly, I’m kind of too old and tired to try to figure it out.


So, the search for a hot pepper jelly recipe had to exclude any blogs where someone just made something up.

I need SOURCES!  I need to know whether this is the way Susie’s neighbor’s mother-in-law showed her on a wood stove how to “put up” jam, or if it’s been tested in labs by people who actually care about pesky things like botulism.

So one thing led to another, and I ended up on Kraft’s website, with a recipe for Hot Pepper Jelly using liquid pectin.


Hot pepper jelly using SIX hot peppers and red and green bell peppers?  REALLY?

Fortunately for me, in addition to the number of peppers, the recipe also included measurements – which totaled 2 3/4 cups.  So THAT is how much total chopped peppers I decided to use.

I mean, really, how hot is it going to be with less than a third of the peppers in the recipe being hot?  Not much, that’s how hot.


Besides, I had a basket full of peppers to use up.

(Now, lest you think I’m saying one thing and doing another, I rationalized it like this — the recipe called for a specific amount of peppers – I don’t think it’s going to matter whether I used red or green, hot or sweet, as it would if, say, I used less acid or not enough sugar.  But that’s just me.)

So I minced the jalapeños first – then I started to kind of have second thoughts.  I mean, should I really use more than twice as many hot peppers as the good people at KRAFT FOODS say to use?


Then I said what the heck.  They were minced, and what else was I going to do with them?    Ultimately, I used about a cup and a half of jalapeños, another cup of minced red peppers, and a final 1/4 cup of green bell pepper.

I set up my work area – sugar all measured (if a little lumpy – we don’t use much sugar around here!), packet of pectin opened and set upright in a small cup.

Remember when pectin used to come in those little brown bottles, and the recipes would call for “half a bottle” or “1 whole bottle” of pectin?


Once the combination (peppers, cider vinegar, a boatload of sugar and a smidge of butter to keep foaming to a minimum) was combined, I needed to bring it to a Full Rolling Boil.

Not a simmer, and not a half-hearted boil – a “boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred.”

Then, in with the pectin – just squeeeeeze it into the Fully Rolling Boiling Molten Sugar.

Wow, that jam was hot!  I mean, boiling sugar always makes me a little nervous, but this just seemed . . . hotter than usual.



Directions were followed, jars were filled and lidded, and timers were set.

I used the canning kettle, covered the jars by a couple of inches of boiling water, and brought everything up to a boil, covered and processed for 10 minutes.

Then, up and out of the HOT canner, to cool quietly on the counter.

And you know, the whole time, my hands just . . . stung.  Burned, even.

Do you know what happens when you slice up one jalapeño pepper?

Not much.

Know what happens when you mince and de-seed a basket full, with no gloves?

Um, yeah.  And it seems that seeding hot peppers using just your thumbnail?  Not such a great idea at all.  The “hot” kind of sticks to your hands and gets all up under your fingernails, and you don’t notice it right away.

In fact, you don’t notice it until after, say, you’ve brushed the hair out of your face, blown your nose, or ever (yes) rubbed your eyes.  But you remember – boy do you remember!  For a couple of days, your hands kind of tingle and burn, and you renew your vow NEVER to chop and seed peppers with no gloves!

The really sad thing?  I don’t even remember what specifically inspired me to make the pepper jelly in the first place.

So I don’t know – do you think maybe I’m destined to just be the proverbial blockhead Swede?




1. mazco34 - October 19, 2010

I have to ask two questions:

1) Didn’t the other blockheaded Swede warn you about this?

2) Did he appreciate your hard and painful work?

Eh, he wasn’t home. And he drives me nuts sometimes with the gloves – I can’t work in them!

And of COURSE he appreciates my hard work. We’re actually going to use some of the jelly with dinner tonight as a glaze on grilled chicken.

2. sjbraun - October 19, 2010

Ha – this reminds me of what I’m going to tell about for Third Thursday coming up. It ain’t pretty 🙂 Years ago, I made something with hot peppers. Some bit made it into my contacts when I was changing them. Never again – never again.

Oh no! I’ve accidentally rubbed my eyes after cutting peppers, and I know – it’s awful, especially with the contacts in! This time, I at least had the presence of mind, when my eye wanted to be itched, to grab a paper towel and use that. That’s something. 😀

3. judy - October 19, 2010

I will be curious for your feed back about how the jelly tastes! Hope it is worth all that went into making it! Have a good dinner. j

Thanks, Judy! From the bit I tasted, I think it will be – between the (lots of) jalapenos, the (lots of) sugar, and the sweet red peppers, it’s got an interesting sweet + hot thing going on. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it will work as a glaze on grilled chicken, and after that, well, who knows? 😉

4. Pary Moppins - October 19, 2010

First of all, I love the fact that you have a tag for “dumbassery”. That is truly awesome! Next, all you needed to do for a real recipe for hot pepper jelly was ask a southern reader to pull out her grandmother’s old cookbooks (any of them, since they all have a recipe for jalapeno jelly – it’s a southern staple and eaten on black eyed peas or poured over cream cheese for an easy dip) and send it your way. 🙂

Well, you know, I just just sort of made up that tag. Though I’m sure it’ll be getting some more use as time goes on. 😀

And yeah, I could have done that. IF I wanted to be all organized and stuff.

So. . . you gotta hot pepper jelly recipe? 😀 And you use it on blackeyed peas? Just dump it on? 😯

Pary Moppins - October 20, 2010

Actually, I looked in several cookbooks and they all pretty much were the same as the recipe you used. The biggest differences were:
1. My recipes use all green peppers and green food coloring so there is no doubt that you are eating pepper jelly.
2. My grandmother’s jelly was strained so that it was clear.
As for the peas, yep, you just spoon a dab on your peas to give them a little sweet/hot compliment to their earthiness.
Next, you’ll have to try Chow Chow, which is another mainstay at the southern table….or Green Tomato Relish…oh the things you could make… 🙂

Ah, straining it! Now that’s a good idea. 🙂 I did opt to skip the food coloring, though – for one thing, I was using red peppers, and the green coloring would have been just . . . wrong. I think I have a bag of black-eyed peas to cook – I’ll have to try the jelly on them!

As for chow chow – I don’t know about that. If I’m going to chop green tomatoes, I’m more likely to use them in green tomato mincemeat. Now THAT is good! It’s just too bad no one else will eat it. . . 😥

5. Anne - October 19, 2010

I make hot pepper garlic jelly every year for Christmas presents. The one I use doesn’t require the boiling of the jars after filling, but to my knowledge, I’ve not killed anyone. Yet.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of hot peppers. The first time I played it safe and used jalepenos. It tasted like Smuckers. No heat at all. I’ve refined it over the years, and now I use exclusively habaneros. It’s got a nice zing, but doesn’t burn the hair off your tongue. But you DO NOT chop those babies without gloves!!!

I used to do the filling the jars and turning them upside down thing – that’s the way preserves were made all the time. Then the pesty old USDA came along with their new recommendations. . . this is actually the first time I’ve water-bathed a batch of preserves.

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