Hi Everyone, I love peppers – of all varieties, shapes and heat level. More than the heat or flavour, I find peppers to be exceptionally beautiful. Short, long, fat, slender, round, dimpled, smooth, hot, fiery, sweet and mild are but a few words we can use to describe peppers aka chillies.
Before I set out for the market last Saturday, I had a talking with myself; such as a parent might have with a child, encouraging them to be on their best behaviour when they go out. I reasoned with myself that there was no need for me to get more pepper, I already had enough and in various forms. I have fresh peppers in the vegetable tray of the refrigerator. I have frozen pepper in the freezer. I have a variety of homemade pepper flakes. I have pepper sauce. I have pickled peppers. I have dried whole peppers. I have pepper pastes. I have peppers that were soaked in yogurt and dried. I. Have. Enough. Peppers.
I arrived at the market, and there, eyeing me, beckoning me, tempting me, teasing me, showing off their vibrant colours, resplendent in the golden morning sunlight, at stall after stall, were peppers in all shapes and varieties. Some were piled on top of each other creating pyramids. Some were pre-packaged, wrapped loosely in clear plastic bags. Others just lay flat in an even layer. As I went about doing my shopping, I’d pause every now and then and just gaze upon the peppers, I wanted them. I had more than enough at home, but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. I walked around the market three times (granted it’s not a very large market); still, I walked the three rows up and down three times, arguing and counter-arguing with myself whether or not to buy the peppers.
But I am a weak woman when it comes to fresh peppers. I broke down. I bought three varieties of peppers. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but I bought them and happily left the market.
Two pounds of peppers of varying degrees of hotness stared back at me from the kitchen counter. “What am I going to do with you all, eh?” I asked the un-answering peppers fondly. Earlier in the week I had seen David Rocco (Cooking Channel – Dolce Vita) make a pepper jam. But, that jam was made with sweet peppers with only a couple of hot peppers and the chillies used in that recipe did not register the kind of heat my peppers do on the Scoville Scale. Nevertheless, I set about making my own pepper jam.
Peppers stemmed and washed, I put them to steam, to soften them. Man, between the heat from the weather and the raw smell of fiery-heat emanating from the pot with the peppers, I began to wonder what sort of hell I was in.
About an hour later, I had sweet heat – my pepper jam. My hot pepper jam. Please do not confuse this with pepper jelly. The pepper jam is delicious. I had added a little bit of freshly ground allspice to give another dimension of flavour. The colour is intense – deep rust-orange; it has character, it is formidable.
My friend Gillian when she first tried one of my pepper sauces proclaimed it to be outrageously hot. When she tried the pepper jam, she said it was dangerous and deceptive. It is. The sweetness lures you in seductively, and then, whacks! The heat hits you in layers. The crazy thing is that it is addictive – sweet, heat; sweet, heat; sweet, heat.
The obvious question now is this – how does one use such a jam. Let me count the ways. First, be warned that this jam is not to be spread thickly as you do with regular sweet jams, because, this jam is very hot.
● Spread it sparingly on crisp toasts or your favourite salt biscuit along with goat’s cheese. The tanginess of the cheese pairs well with the sweetness and the heat.
● Eat it with aged salty cheeses such as cheddar or havarti.
● Stir it into mayonnaise for a sweet-spicy sauce or dip.
● Great for sweet chutneys such as tamarind chutney
● Put a little into your cocoa or hot chocolate and go ummm.
● Add a little to your brownies, chocolate cakes or chocolate cookie mixes.
● Mix it with one of the more traditional jams to create a glaze with a bit of attitude.
● Spike your cocktails with a little sweetness and heat.
● Add a teaspoon or two to the ice cream custard for homemade ice cream.
The bottom line is to get creative. I’d love to hear of some of the ways you use the jam when you make it.
2 pounds of hot peppers (use one type or a variety)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups granulated sugar
Wash peppers and remove stems.
Insert steamer into pot and fill with water – the water should not cover the bottom of the steamer.
Transfer peppers to pot, cover and place pot on medium high heat. Steam peppers for 20 – 25 minutes or until a knife inserts easily.
Add peppers, apple cider vinegar and water to a food processor and puree until the mixture is smooth.
Place a large sieve over a bowl and working in batches, ladle the pureed peppers into the sieve and use just the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to rub the pulp through the sieve. After each batch, clean the bottom of the sieve. Discard the seeds and skin.
Add the sieved pulp, salt and allspice to a large saucepot and place on medium high heat. Pour the sugar in gradually and keep stirring. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the pot to a boil, skimming off any froth or foam, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture reaches jam consistency. To test for jam consistency, take about a teaspoon of the jam and place it on a saucer and let it cool or to speed up the process, put it in the fridge. You are looking to see if the mixture congeals; thickens.
Remove pot from heat and let cool. Pour into sterilized jars. Store at room temperature or refrigerate.