06 December 2010

Recipes: Red Pepper Jelly


My friend, Jen, had a mexican-themed party called Hola, It's Christmas! this past weekend, and one of the appetizers that she had was a cream cheese and red pepper jelly dip. It was so good that I just had to see if I couldn't make my own red pepper jelly at home. I searched online for recipes, but almost all of them used Pectin. I didn't want to buy anything I didn't strictly have to buy, other than the peppers, of course, so I wondered if there was a way to make the red pepper jelly without pectin: and there was!

I already had a packet of Agar Agar flakes in my cupboard. I'd used the Agar Agar, a type of seaweed, I think, only once: for the most delicious batch of Vegan Cappuccino Chocolate Cupcakes (from an awesome book called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskovitz & Terry Hope Romano). I know that I could use the Agar Agar to thicken my jelly, but I wasn't sure how much to add. So I winged it. It turned out great!

Here's what you need:

5 or 6 red bell peppers (mine were huge so I used 5, if smaller, use 6)
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. sea salt
1 t. cayenne pepper (add more if you like more heat, less if you want milder)
2 T. agar agar flakes (look near nori at Whole Foods)

Remove the core & seeds from your peppers. Shred in a food processor until pulverized. I didn't peel my peppers, but I suppose you could blanch and peel them, if you were so inclined. I don't think it's necessary at all though.

In a medium-large pot, add sugar and ACV. Bring to a boil.

Add pepper mixture, salt, and cayenne pepper.

Stir and bring the mixture back to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, about 15 - 20 minutes. You can simmer longer if you want a thicker jelly. I wanted to be able to spoon the jelly out easily.

Actually, when researching how to make the jelly, I did find one recipe on Chowhound that didn't use any pectin or Agar Agar. The poster said they'd just cook the pepper mixture for up to an hour until it thickened to the point they liked. So you could try that if you don't have anything else on hand.

My batch made enough to fill 6 pint-size canning jars. You could definitely sterilize and do the proper canning method, but I know this will go fast, so I didn't bother. Instead, I filled the jars and will keep them in the fridge or maybe freezer for a couple of weeks. If you want yours to last longer, go ahead and can them properly.

The red pepper jelly is sweet with just a hint of heat. I can taste the spice of the cayenne pepper on my tongue, and it's so crazy good with the creaminess of the cheese on a slightly salty cracker.  I know it will be awesome as a pasta sauce, maybe as a pizza topping or on a baked potato. I'm going to try it with everything! Try it and tell me what you think!

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