Fall’s first frost is looming and the last hurrah of pepper season is upon us. And it’s been a good one, with baskets, bags and bins brimming with bold jalapenos -- the perfect excuse to cook up some jalapeno jelly. A plentiful bounty is always a thing of beauty and the heat in this easily grown pepper is a welcome addition when chopped and added to salsa, sauces or chili. Some added heat warms the heart as well as the palate. Jalapenos fit the bill very nicely indeed. It's probably why we grew them in the first place.
So we know they bring the the heat. But can they bring the sweet?
You betcha. Behind that famous heat lies a mellow taste not unlike the bell pepper. Take some of the fire out of this iconic pepper and what’s left behind is an inviting flavor with just enough zing to remind us what we’re dealing with.
Removing much of the heat that lies within the jalapeno is as easy as, well...removing what lies within.
Capsaicin, a chemical compound found in abundance in jalapenos, is sometimes used as a numbing agent in topical creams for pain management. For hot pepper lovers, it is better known as the stuff that makes the throat constrict, the tongue burn and brings tears to the eyes. It is the “hot” in that hot pepper.
In the jalapeno, most of the capsaicin is found in the core. The membrane to which the seeds are attached is loaded with the stuff and also coats the seeds through contact. Slice a pepper lengthwise and scrape away the membrane and seeds inside and the mild heat and flavorful flesh left behind is well-suited for uses beyond rocking the Scoville scale.
Jalapeno jelly first appeared in the 1970s and can be used as a glaze for fish or chicken or to bring a touch of sweet heat to barbeque sauce. Perhaps most commonly though, when paired with cream cheese or goat cheese as a cracker topper, it is a popular hors d'oeuvre. Add a little red or green food coloring before canning and top some cream cheese with the result for a colorful and tasty no-muss/no-fuss dip at parties.
I don’t know about you, but a little no-muss/no-fuss goes a long way with me.
- ¾ lb jalapeno peppers, seeded and cored
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 6 cups sugar
- 3 (1.75 oz) packages dry pectin
- Red or green food coloring (optional)
Puree jalapenos, lemon juice and zest and 1 cup of vinegar in a food processor.
Bring puree, remaining vinegar and sugar to a boil for 10 minutes in a large, heavy pot.
Sprinkle in pectin (making sure clumps dissolve) and return to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in a few drops of food coloring, if desired.
Fill 6 sterile half pint jars, leaving ¼” of space at the top.
Cap with lids and bands and boil 10 minutes in a water bath to seal.