This week, we’re making jelly!
I love to wear my Suzie Homemaker hat, but I usually draw the line at such things as making my own soap, milling my own flour, and anything to do with canning. Jelly making, on the other hand, is so quick and easy and it’s not equipment-intensive, so we’re having a great time making some of our own.
There’s nothing better than jalapeño jelly (aka pepper jelly) melted into a just roasted pork tenderloin. Or jalapeño jelly spooned over a block of cream cheese, served as a snack or as party food. Pepper jelly I was so frustrated at not being able to find any that was sugar-free. Every time I went to a gourmet food store or a farmers’ market, I would look and ask. No luck. I was beginning to believe that there was something about the nature of the peppers that made it impossible to make the jelly without sugar. Then I found it — suggestions for making it at home on a site called pickyourown.org. Bless them! What an incredible resource. Through the site, you can find farms near you where you can pick your own produce, you can order supplies, get directions, and so much more. Please support the pickyourown.org site and patronize your local growers! If you’ve never canned before, this is a good introduction because you simply have to do water bath canning — which is much more simple (and less equipment-intensive) than the pressure cooking type of canning.
- 3/4 lb. to 1 pound of jalapeño peppers (I actually use a few red peppers, too, just for a little color variety)
- 4 cups Splenda
- 2 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 packets no-sugar pectin
- Canning jars, 8 oz. size (one batch will make 4-5 jars)
- Large-opening funnel
- Tongs, or a jar grabber to get the jars out of the large pot
- A huge pot
Before you get started, let me give you a little overview of the process. You’re going to sterilize the jars and lids by boiling them. While that’s going on, you will cut up the peppers and remove the seeds. You’ll blend them with half the vinegar. Then you’ll be cooking the pepper and vinegar mixture (with the remaining vinegar added), and you will subsequently add in the pectin. When it sets up (which is quickly), you will be pouring it into the jars through a big mouth funnel, sticking on the lids, and you will place the filled jars into boiling water to finish the process. Heaven help you if you don’t wear some sort of food prep or other gloves. We were laughing our heads off about all the jalapeño “gas” in the air as we made a double batch, but at least we protected our hands and insured that we would not be rubbing jalapeño oil into our eyes.
Boil your jars and lids in boiling water in a huge pot. (How big do I mean? I mean big enough that you will be able to set your jars down in it and they will be fully covered with about 2 inches of water above the top of the jars.) Take the lids out after 5 minutes; remove the jars after 10. Discard the water once it cools a bit. You’re going to rinse out the pan and fill it up again.
Weigh your peppers so you know you have the correct amount. Cut the tops off. My technique is to then slice them in half, lengthwise, and use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the seeds from the middle. Throw the peppers into a blender along with 1 1/4 cup vinegar. Puree. I like to leave tiny little pieces of pepper. It makes the jelly prettier.
In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of Splenda with 2 1/2 packs of no-sugar pectin. Just let it sit there. (Don’t ask me why.)
In another pan, heat to a boil the pepper puree, another 1 1/4 cup of vinegar, and 3 1/2 cups of Splenda. Stir, so it doesn’t burn. Boil for 10 minutes, then add the pectin and the Splenda that you previously mixed together and allowed to sit around. Once this has been added, you’re going to bring it back to a boil and boil it hard for 1 minute, stirring the whole time. (At this point, you should make sure your other pot — the huge canning pot — is filled with water and is heating up to a boil)
You can add food coloring at this point. If you’re making an extra hot batch, you might want to leave it without coloring, and use green food coloring to mark your mild batch later. I would have suggested you use red food coloring for the hot batch, but when I did it it came out rather brown and blech-y.
Using a large spoon, spoon the mixture through a large-opening funnel into your sterilized jars that are sitting on your counter on top of a dish towel to hold them steady and catch some of the mess. Fill up to within 1/4 inch of the top. (Your jars should still be hot.) Use a paper towel to take care of any mess you’ve made on the opening and rim. Add the lid and put the ring on.
Using your jar grabber or large tons, place the jars of jelly into your huge pot of boiling water. Boil them for at least 10 minutes.
Pull your jars out and allow them to cool. It’s recommended you put them in a draft-free place where no one will mess with them for several hours, perhaps overnight. After several hours have passed, make sure the lid has been sucked down. That’s the sign the jar has sealed properly. If it hasn’t, stick it in the fridge and use it from there, or consult the directions in the pectin package. I have faith in you, however. I’m sure your jars will be sealed!
Not all jalapeños are hot. Cut tiny slivers off each one you’re going to use so you can know ahead of time whether you’re making an atomic potion or something with just a mild kick. Then you can adjust quantities and so forth to get the desired degree of hotness.