Homemade bread never lasts very long in this house. Well, in general baked goods don’t make it very long. Cookies, bread, pie…… what was I talking about? Really, they don’t last long; we say that ever popular phrase “just one more…”. Just one more slice of bread, just one more cookie, just one more piece of pie. And we have just one more until it’s all gone. In two days usually. This is a big part of the reason we don’t keep many baked goods in the house; we eat what we made and then don’t make anymore for a while. Because we have no self control. Not when it comes to baked goods. But I had to go and talk about how much I love stew and bread on a cold day yesterday and well, that put those thoughts in my head so here we are. I baked two loaves of dense, hearty homemade bread, the kind you dip in stew, the kind that makes you sleepy afterward because it is so heavy. And I put beef stew in the crock pot. My husband asked if we needed to pick up diced tomatoes and I am sure that the look I gave him was pure bewilderment. Tomatoes? Fruit in a beef stew?? A soft, tender, fragile little wannabe vegetable in my stew? That’s a negative. I just have a very specific idea about beef stew; it’s carrots, taters, celery, onion and beef. Broth of course, but that’s it. Don’t go adding extra things to it, it is perfect in its simplicity. Basic spices, garlic, salt and pepper and I sear the outside of the beef first, so I throw some of our spicy smoky paprika on it then, but not much else by way of seasoning. And that’s the way I like it. There are a couple of things I don’t want messed with when it comes to recipes; this is one of them. Otherwise I can be pretty adventurous with food.
Until recently I had never heard of pepper jelly. And when I did, I was dubious. Peppers into jelly? Interesting. We like peppers. The Hubby loves peppers. A coworker who had infinitely better luck with peppers this year gave us a ton of jalapenos. Ok not a literal ton, more like 20-30 peppers, but it was a lot. While I was working on the bread last night, Hubby told me his peppers needed to be used up, they were starting to go bad. I had mentioned casually in the past that I could make pepper jelly for him; just because I had never done it doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it. So I looked around for recipes that matched what we had on hand, and had to tweak one that I found. But we got jalapeno-banana pepper jelly out of it. One of the agreements when I’m canning between the Hubby and I is that I will put the skimmed foam into a jar so he can refrigerate and eat it as he pleases. This time was no different. He did prep work for me so I wouldn’t have to handle the jalapenos and I made him jelly. He had heard of pepper jelly but had never had any, so this was his first as well. It turned out so different than what either of our minds could imagine! Sweet and earthy, the Hubs said it tasted green. It’s not overly peppery and not way too spicy, but it has a little heat in its finish. It was a success. I feel like I often talk a lot and share quirky stories about our little homestead here but never share enough. So I am going to put up my improvised jelly recipe. Please keep in mind, if you have never canned, you really need to get a book, find a website, take a class, etc. I’m not going to cover canning safety here. Maybe one day I will become a certified canning instructor, but for now I am just a girl with a blog. I am not guaranteeing the safety or efficacy of any of my methods. And I also must stress that altering a canning recipe is possibly dangerous. That being said, here is my improvised jelly recipe:
Jalapeno-Banana Pepper Jelly
20 jalapeno peppers, with pith and seeds removed
2 large banana peppers, with pith and seeds removed
1 small green apple, peeled and cored
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
- Dice peppers and apple. Place in food processor and chop until consistency desired. We took them down to a very fine chop, with almost no chunks left. This is a preference thing.
- Put the 3 cups sugar in a bowl and set aside, but have it ready to use.
- Place the pepper-apple chop, water, lemon juice and salt in a pot. Warm to before a boil and add pectin. Stirring frequently, bring this to a rolling boil. A rolling boil refers to a boil that cannot be stirred down.
- Add the sugar all at once. Bring the entire concoction back to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Do not overcook at this point, the pectin doesn’t like to be overcooked.
- Remove from heat and skim the foam off the top. Into a bowl works, or if your significant other likes to nosh on it, into a small jar with a lid for refrigeration. The foam is jelly, it just has too much air in it to can effectively.
- Pour the remaining jelly into previously sterilized jars to 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rims, place your prepped lids on top and screw the bands into place. The bands should only be hand tight; don’t over tighten them or air will not be able to escape the jars.
- Process in a boiling water bath canner with at least 1-2 inches of water covering the jars for 10 minutes.
- When time is up, take the lid off the canner and let cool for a few minutes, then remove jars to a dry, clean towel, cutting board or cooling rack, just as long as whatever you put them on is dry and clean. Then await that delightful plinking sound as your lids seal.
This recipe made 4 1/2 jelly jars for me, but again I improvised. The original made 8, so I have a feeling that I ended up using a lot less pepper than they did. The apple added some tartness and we used fresh squeezed lemon juice. The only reason we did this is because we had lemons that needed to be used. I am sensing a theme here.
If you have any questions about canning methods, tools, etc., please find a book; one that we like is Stocking Up by Carol Hupping and Rodale Food Center. The USDA also has extensive information on their website dedicated solely to canning. Please can safe!