I have a habit of buying random groceries that I seriously don’t need! I’m sure most of us shop beyond our grocery lists but I actually make it a goal to find the most unusual and random items in the store as I slowly wander through every aisle. On this special occasion, I was shopping at a produce market that carries practically everything you can think of when I came across the bins of hot peppers. So many to choose from! But what really caught my eye were the bright colors of the little red, green and yellow Jamaican Hot Peppers. What is it they say? The smaller the pepper, the spicier the bite? Well Jamaican Hot Peppers are a type of chili pepper that rank 100,000-200,000 units on the Scoville heat scale, which measures the hotness of a pepper. That’s hot! Right underneath the Habanero pepper on the chart of hotness. So with a bag of spicy hot peppers in hand and a mind flowing with ideas, I drove home as quickly as possible (without speeding, of course) so I could get cooking in the kitchen. With a new canner just waiting to get broken in, I knew I would have to turn the peppers in to a jam or jelly so I could finally can something! Since I wanted to use the whole pepper and not just the juice, I decided on a jam. Very very hot jam with a hint of sweet! You can make this jam with any hot peppers and can even add more mild peppers to you don’t set your mouth on fire. Since I enjoy spice but still like to have some taste buds left when it’s all over, I made my jam mildly hot with a nice burn that lingers for a while in the back of your mouth.
Jamaican Hot Pepper Jam
makes around 4 cups of jelly
1 cup Jamaican Hot Peppers, de-seeded and finely diced
1 cup red bell peppers, de-seeded and finely diced
1 cup orange bell peppers, de-seeded and finely diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 package (1.75 oz) pectin (I used Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin, which you can find at Walmart and Target, or order in bulk online)
2 cups white sugar
If you aren’t planning to can the jam, just ignore all of my talk on canning. The trick with canning anything is doing things in the correct order so the jars are ready when the jam is cooked. So the first thing I did was sterilize the jelly jars and lids in my canner. The lids must be new since used lids won’t seal correctly and the food wills spoil. If you don’t have a canner, you can use a large pot for this process. If you want to buy a canner, I highly recommend buying a waterbath canner that also includes a canning rack, funnel, jar lifter, and jar wrench. Other extras might include a magnetic lid lifter and bubble freer. Okay, back to business. I washed the jars and lids in soapy hot water then placed in the canner and covered with water. The water should be 1″-2″ above the top of the jars. I placed the pot on the stove, covered with the lid and brought the water to a boil. Just note that the water will take a little while to boil since you should be using a large pot. My canner is huge! Once the water was boiling, I kept the jars submerged for another 5 minutes then turned off the heat.
I removed the canner from the heat and left the lid on until the jelly was ready. By doing this, you are ensuring that the jars will not get contaminated while you cook. Now on to the hot pepper jam! Wearing gloves, I sliced the hot peppers and bell peppers in half, removed the seeds (the hottest part of the pepper) and chopped them in my food processor.
I added the peppers to a medium pot, along with the apple cider vinegar and pectin. I brought the mixture to a rolling boil, which took around 5 minutes, stirring continuously. A rolling boil means that the mixture will continue to boil, even when you stir. I then added the sugar and returned the mixture to a rolling boil, which took around 2 minutes to happen, still stirring continuously. Once boiling, I stirred for 1 full minute then took the jelly off the stove. The process of making the jam only took around 10 minutes! Can you believe it?!?
At this point, I prepared the jars and lids to be filled. Using the jar lifter that came with my canner, I carefully lifted the jars and lids from the hot water and placed everything right side up on a paper towel. Be careful not to touch the lips of the jars or you will contaminate them. I placed the funnel (also came with my canner) in each jar and carefully ladled in the hot jam. As you move the ladle from one jar to the next, be careful to keep the lips of the jars clean so they will seal correctly.
Using the jar lifter again, I carefully place the lids on top of each jar then close tightly with the screwband. I placed the jars back on the rack in the canner, being sure to keep the jars upright, and lowered the rack under the water. There should be at least 2 inches of water above the jars. If you don’t have a canner, you can do this in a regular pot but you must make sure the jars stay upright.
I brought the water to a boil then left the jars in the boiling water for 12 minutes. Don’t start the timer until the water reaches a boil. I carefully removed the jars from the canner using the jar lifter and placed them upright on a towel.
At this point, I had to just let the jars be. No touching for 8-12 hours. I just had to let them seal correctly so that meant no moving the jars. You might be tempted to touch the metal lids to see if they are sealed but don’t do it! Just leave them alone.
When the jars were cooled, I tested the seals by pressing the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. Just know that if the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed and you should refrigerate the jam for up to a week. Thank goodness all of my jars sealed correctly so I made some labels and set all but one jar in a cool, dry place (my pantry). This jam will stay for up to a year in the jar.
While I impatiently waited for the jam to be ready, I made blue cheese biscuits. I figured this light and flaky cracker would be perfect for the heat of the Jamaican Hot Peppers. I was totally right, by the way. Here is the recipe I used from David Lebovitz. I just have to warn you that the blue cheese smell is REALLY strong during the oven time. I mean, really really strong. My eyes were actually burning a little. If you have the same reaction, just simmer a small pot of water with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves and the smell of the blue cheese will disappear! Okay, you can light a few candles too. It’s totally worth it for these little savory biscuits.
8 hours later, it was time to open my first jar of Jamaican Hot Pepper Jam!!! The sound of the lid popping was a little sound from heaven. The vibrant red color of the jam was certainly a warning to the heat that lied ahead but the spicy burn of the hot peppers was perfect. Not running for a glass of milk just yet! The hot pepper jam was a little bit sweet from the sugar and the blue cheese biscuit balanced out that lingering burning sensation on the tongue. I can’t wait to mix this jam with salad dressing, smear on hot toast, dollop on a hot dog…the options are endless! I don’t think I can even say enough about this jam. I’m so glad I have 3 more jars ready in my pantry. Next time, I’m going to double the recipe for sure!
makes around 4 cups of jelly