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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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It is clean up time in the garden.  The last of the tomatoes and peppers are ripening on the vine.  We have cleared almost all of our summer crops in favor of space for fall garlic and broccoli and kale.  We left the tomato and pepper plants in hopes that a few more fruits would ripen during this week’s heat wave.

We have been on a serious salsa bender this summer, chopping most of the best tomatoes into a simple lime-laced habañero-powered accompaniment to everything from grilled fish to scrambled eggs.  Our smallest tomatoes are now chilling in the freezer having been transformed into Savory Oven Dried Tomatoes .  Today though,  emboldened by a bulb of fennel gleaned from a surprise source, I squirreled away enough tomatoes to make this delicious basic tomato sauce.

Basic is perhaps not the right word to describe Roasted Tomato Sauce with Fennel, because it suggests that the results may be a bit boring.  Quite to the contrary, this sauce absolutely sings of late summer with intense flavors of tomato and a slight sweetness lent by the roasted fennel.  I make as much of this sauce as I can, multiplying as necessary, and then freeze it in 2 cup portions that are ready to serve with the mood strikes.  Besides the intense and pure fall flavor, I also love this recipe because it calls to cook the sauce in the oven which frees up my time (and stove top) to take on other tasks such as making fig jam, cheering for the Giants, and supervising my children’s creation of a zillion maple leaf imprints. Read the rest of this entry »

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