Habañero Pepper Jelly

October 27, 2012

The rains came this week and called the official end to summer.  The cool weather came a bit late if you ask me, our sweaters and socks, not to mention our umbrellas, were looking mighty lonely. We picked our last lug of peppers just in time, hauling in a respectable bounty before the soaking.  Our pepper plants have nearly given us more peppers than we know what to do with, or than we would know if we were not busy making all sorts of yummy pepper dishes every few days.  There was no question of how to prepare this last harvest of peppers.  For the last year there has been a habañero pepper-sized hole on my pantry shelf (and in my heart- sigh).  Before you jump to judgement and label me as a dramatic preserved foodaphile, let me explain.  I started making a version of this jelly years ago.  In the early days of our relationship, my husband and I would make whole meals out of Swedish crisp bread topped with cream cheese and pepper jelly.  It was so good, we dubbed it “THE snack”.  It became a staple in our pantry and our diet.  For some reason, I never got around to making it last summer, so there was sweet relief in filling the pantry void with this jeweled treat.

Sweet, tart, and spicy, Habañero Pepper Jelly is nearly irresistible.  Habañero peppers have a robust flavor that infuses the jelly, but they are very spicy.  For this batch, I used a combination of semi-hot Hungarian wax peppers and a handful of habañeros.  There is a serious kick.  More often I pair the spicy habañeros with sweet bell peppers.  Of course, you can add whichever kinds of peppers you wish.  Not a fan of the heat?  It is fine to use only sweet peppers.  The only guideline is to try to use peppers that are in the same color range.  I once tried to use green, yellow, and red peppers and the result was a murky brown jelly.  Serve this jelly with a cheese course (great with goat cheese, brie, or cream cheese- a sharp cheddar is good too).  The jelly adds a serious kick to a simple grilled cheese or spread it on a turkey sandwich.  Come to think of it, this would be a wonderful hostess gift for Thanksgiving.  This recipe is all the reason you need to run out to the Farmers’ Market today to snatch up the last of the fall peppers.  You will not be disappointed.

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I am back.  This last month I took an unexpected, but much needed break from many of the details of my life, including keeping My Pantry Shelf full of new pictures and recipes.  After many anxious months, I finally had my chance at desperately needed back surgery.  The weeks that followed proved that I am not very good at resting (big surprise).  Luckily my incredibly generous and talented friends stepped in to make sure that my family and I were eating in style.  They dropped off pot pies and meatloafs, quiches and casseroles, salads and a notable tub of pad thai from my friend at Make Room.  It felt so indulgent to lie around while others fed me, but I could not be more grateful for the support.  The flip side of course was that I was hardly cooking at all and certainly nothing “blog-worthy”.  Then we took off for a couple of weeks of true rejuvenation in the best place on earth (no- not Disneyland, how could that be rejuvenating?).  Now I am back.  Back to my energetic, pain-free, and most importantly happy self.  It is good to be me…again. Read the rest of this entry »

Strawberry Freezer Jam

July 15, 2012

Delicious strawberry jam can be elusive.  The standard jam-making technique of cooking down fruit and sugar until the mixture achieves a jell generally does not work with strawberries.  All the fresh sweetness of the ripe fruit converts into an overly sweet darkened mash when cooked.  Not bad, but definitely not one of my family’s favorites.  Mixed with other fruits, it does not seem to be a problem.  The strawberries added to Three Berry Jam only add to the complex fruitiness of the mix.   Slow roasting the strawberries is another option, as I have done  in this Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  To capture the simple delight of strawberries though, the trick is not to cook them at all.

Strawberry Freezer Jam is perhaps the simplest jam I have made.  Starting with fresh ripe strawberries in season, they are simply cut, mashed, and mixed with a simple syrup mixed with pectin.  That is it, no additional cooking.  As the pectin cools, it jells.  Now since this jam is not cooked, it is not safe for shelf storage.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks and for a year in the freezer.  It is so quick and easy I literally made it while my kids ate their lunch one day.  Since there is no boiling jam it also does not heat up the house like other jam making might.  My daughter took over the job of filling the jars.  We capped them off, labeled them with the name of the jam and the date, and we were done.  What a perfect way to preserve the fresh taste of strawberries for the winter ahead.  It would also be a great jam recipe for someone who is new to jam making and does not want to deal with the sterilization and processing required to safely make other types of jams.

This post is linked with Grow It, Cook It, Can It’s Cook It 2012.  Check that site shortly for a roundup of great jam making posts.

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It is unfortunate that so many types of condiments are readily available at the supermarket.  Being able to walk down an aisle and toss in a jar of jam, bottle of ketchup, or any number of types of hot sauce distracts the collective “us” from the fact that none of these products are as good as we can make in our own kitchens.  This point is only magnified when looking into imported ethnic condiments.  There is the allure of some tasty sauce shipped in from around the world and many cooks  (including myself) can sometimes lack confidence when branching out to culinary styles not grounded in our continent of birth.  One look at the ingredient list of these foods though and we are reminded of the uncertain quality of foods with mysterious origin.

All of these complicated thoughts were running through my mind the other day when I happened upon Sherri  Brooks Vinton’s recipe for Asian Plum Sauce in her book Put “em Up.  I am a firm believer that a high quality condiment can transform an ordinary meal into something special.  Since plums are literally falling from the trees right now, there is no better time to capture that goodness in this deeply spiced tangy sauce.  The directions for canning the sauce are included, this sauce is sure to taste even better on a rainy or snowy day in February than it does now when these fruity tastes are so abundant.  I also included the half batch proportions, because I can see whipping up this sauce in advance of my next eggroll party.  What? You have never had an eggroll party before?  Me either, but it sure sounds like fun to me!

And now for the winner of the Canning Supplies Give Away…  Kalamckala from Eating on a Napkin is the lucky winner.  She says, “I’m a newbie with the whole canning and preserving thing but I made an apricot preserve with vanilla and cinnamon – I may have fallen for the entire process! I only hope to can more and more this summer! ”  It sounds like these supplies will be put to good use!  Thank you to everyone who commented!  There are so many great ideas in the comments of that post.  Check them out and get inspired!

Generator Min: 1 Max: 57 Result: 52 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

*A note about the winner selection.  There were 69 comments total, 12 were my responses.  Since it would be strange for me to win my own prize, I used a random number generator to select a random number between 1 and 57.  1 was the first comment and 57 the last.

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With Farmers’ Markets and roadside stands beginning to burst with summer fruit, I know I am not the only one who feels giddy dreaming of putting up some luscious jam for the winter.  I already pumped out a batch of Cherry Rhubarb Jam and Three Berry Jam (subbing in blueberries for the raspberries) and am working on some apricot jam today.  While there is nothing wrong with impulsive food preservation, diving into canning season with a plan based on what you and your family needs and actually wants to eat through the winter ensures you will have enough and not end up with a load of jars that go past their prime.

I finally got my act together and created a simple spreadsheet to record what types of canned foods I made, what quantities, how much is left now (or when we ran out), and notes about each item (loved it the way it was, too sweet, not sweet enough, add a bay leaf next time, etc.)  It is here for you to download in both Microsoft word: canned goods inventory form and PDF: canned goods inventory form format.

New to canning? Check out this post waxing on about the glory of preserving food.  Heed the Call of the Jar! (great read for beginners)

Also check out my page: Home Canning Basics that explains the basic process and equipment for canning.

Our favorites from last year that I am definitely making again include:

Three Berry Jam- it is hard to beat the trifecta of summer fruit in this deeply colored, intensely berried jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam- the strawberries and rhubarb are both slow roasted here allowing the fruit to maintain its shape and texture nicely

Mixed Berry Syrup- I need to make  a quadruple batch of this lovely syrup.  I could live on this stuff (and maybe these pancakes to go with it.)

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam- This beautiful delicate jam is my knock-out back up appetizer for any last minute event through the year.  Excellent on a cheese plate.)

Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles

Applesauce

Dilly Beans

On my list to try this summer are:

Smokin’ Strawberry- I am a sucker for chipotle and the Tigress is genius when she suggests pairing that smokey pepper with strawberries.

Cardamom Peach Pie Filling- Mrs. Wheelbarrow struck a chord with me when she paired ripe summer peaches with cardamom.  Yum!

Classic Tomato Ketchup-  Last summer my ketchup, though delicious, was not really “ketchup”.  My son dubbed it “Rojo Sauce” and we gobbled it up none the less, but this time I want to try Local Kitchen’s recipe. Kaela claims it is “deep, dark red and seriously tasty”.  I am intrigued.

Chocolate Plum Jam- Caroline at Grow It, Cook It, Can It came up with this one, and truly, she had me at chocolate.  I dream of smearing this on French Toast in January.

Roasted Red Pepper Spread: Canning Homemade’s recipe sounds like a delicious addition to the pantry.

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Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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Curried Cauliflower Pickles

January 10, 2012

Wandering through the produce market, it is easy to become entranced.  I most recently succumbed to cauliflower.  The big snowy globes of pure veggie power were calling my name.  They may just be the most versatile winter vegetable, ready to adapt to any flavor profile or dish in which they are called to serve. I filled my basket with four huge heads and began dreaming of the possibilities.  Two heads went straight into a double-batch of pickles.

Curried Cauliflower Pickles are a crunchy, intensely flavored Indian condiment.  Serve them on the side of any Indian-inspired dish or nibble on them as an appetizer.  They are not too bad straight from the jar either.  Awaken the flavors by toasting the spices in a dry pan before adding them to the jars.  The cauliflower, ginger, and garlic all pack into the jars while raw.  After pouring the boiled brine into the jar, submerge the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the jars.  In this time the cauliflower cooks to a perfect tenderness.  While the pickles are ready to eat in a week, they will continue to become more flavorful with time.  Shake the jars periodically to distribute the spices that have settled to the bottom.

T, my good friend and canning comrade, turned me on to this recipe from Alton Brown.  The original recipe did not give directions for how to can the pickles, so I cross-referenced with my other canning materials to determine the processing time.  I altered the spices a bit to suit my taste.  The curry is fairly mild.  Increase the amount of spice if you want more intensity.  Adding some chile flakes or hot peppers would be a nice touch as well.

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