Hot pepper jelly gives me farmers market vibes.
Not because it’s seasonal to summer in any way. In fact, it’s known for its popularity around the holidays. However, I happen to have many fond memories of eating this condiment at various local produce stands.
I’ve been lucky enough that every city I’ve resided in has boasted some form of a downtown market brimming with homegrown and homemade items. And no matter how many of these I’ve strolled through, there always seems to be someone handing out hot pepper jelly samples.
I grew up (and still live) in the south, where pepper jelly is about as common as pulled pork and nosy neighbors. But it seems that its fame has spread far and wide.
I’ve meandered down many a street on vacation, foamy cappuccino in one hand and flaky chocolate-filled croissant in the other, perusing the tables of artisan vendors, and I’m telling you: no matter where, I go, pepper jelly follows.
Did that coffee and pastry visual spark repressed memories of another lifetime where you lived in Paris and ate nothing but bread, cheese, and butter? No? Just me?
All I know is it’s rare to mingle my way through the local merchants at a streetside market and not stumble upon a nice old lady bestowing buttery crackers smeared with cream cheese and red pepper-flecked jelly unto the crowd.
Speaking of which, don’t forget to educate yourself on the differences between jams, jellies, and preserves here.
I had never attempted to make my own version at home, as it always seemed to be abundantly available. But once I manifested the magical spread in my own kitchen for the first time, I couldn’t believe how delicious and versatile it was.
I would never knock cream cheese, but it’s not the only counterpart that deserves to be paired with this spread. And if you make it from scratch, you’re just getting started with your culinary journey. Let’s take a moment to consider other possible pairings.
Smear it on a gooey grilled cheese. Give your stir-fry some sweet heat. Spoon it over baked chicken wings and stare dreamily as it melts into perfection.
In just 20 minutes, you can have a little flavorful batch of your very own.
And about that flavor – I can be a little picky about bell peppers, but their grassy flavor is crucial here. Red is the most vibrant and sweet of the bunch and it brings bright, citrusy notes. It can even hold up in the jelly on its own if you prefer to not take things in a spicy direction.
Though, this is hot pepper jelly, after all.
To tone down the heat from the spicy jalapeno, I recommend leaving out some of the jalapeno seeds and ribs instead of boldly dropping in the whole thing. Apple cider vinegar rounds everything out with a pleasant tanginess that hits the front of your tongue.
You’ll be surprised at how such a minimal number of ingredients can generate such an intense flavor profile, but that’s the beauty of learning to cook from the ground up.
Building condiments from scratch also comes in handy when you can’t find a spare grandma passing out samples.Print
Get your fix of sugar, spice, and everything nice with this sweet bell pepper-laced jelly spiked with tongue-tingling jalapenos.
- 3 red bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
- 2 small jalapenos with seeds, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1.75-ounce package pectin (3 1/2 tablespoons)
- In a food processor, pulse the bell peppers and jalapenos until finely chopped.
- In a large saucepot over high heat, add the pepper mixture, sugar, vinegar, and salt, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil over high heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Slowly add in the pectin, whisking constantly. Cook at a vigorous boil for another 2 minutes, continuing to stir.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow the jelly to cool for 5 minutes. Skim any foam off the top of the jelly using a wide, shallow ladle or spoon.
- Fill a separate large pot with water and place it over medium heat to sterilize the jars. Carefully submerge the empty jars (without the lids and rings) right side up in the pot, making sure the water is about 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a boil, and continue to boil the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but don’t drain it – you can use the same water to process the filled jars.
- Ladle the jelly into the sterile canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of room at the top. Tightly screw on the lids, and process the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the pot (making sure that the lids have popped) and set them aside to cool completely before storing or refrigerating.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Jelly
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Spreads
Keywords: hot pepper, jelly, jalapeno, bell pepper
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Peppers
Stem, seed, and roughly chop the red bell peppers and add them to your food processor. Stem and roughly chop the jalapenos and add them as well.
Feel free to use any assortment of sweet bell peppers you like, and if you’re looking for a jam that’s entirely one color, you can use red bell peppers and red jalapenos, or green and green.
For a spread that’s not spicy at all, use all bell peppers and skip the chilis.
Pulse the bell peppers and jalapenos until they’re finely chopped, making sure not to overmix them into a paste. You can also do this step by hand.
Step 2 – Boil the Jelly
Add the pepper mixture, sugar, vinegar, and salt to a large saucepot and place it over high heat. Stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil over high heat, but keep an eye on the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Continue cooking at a full boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Slowly add the pectin, whisking constantly. Cook at a vigorous boil for another 2 minutes, continuing to stir.
You can test the jelly to make sure it’s done with a candy thermometer. The temperature should read at least 220°F.
To test for doneness without a thermometer, you can also watch how it drips off of a spatula. If it’s thin and runny, it needs more time. If it forms thick droplets that hang off the spatula, it’s likely done or almost done.
You can also use the “freezer test” where you place a spoonful of the jelly on a plate that’s been in the freezer for about 15 minutes (take the pot off heat while you do this if you didn’t put a plate in the freezer to chill beforehand).
Put the plate with the jelly back in the freezer for several minutes, and then gently push the jam with the tip of your finger. If a skin has formed on top that wrinkles when it’s nudged, it’s done. If it’s still liquidy and your finger goes right through the spread, it needs more time on the stove.
Step 3 – Skim the Foam and Sanitize the Jars
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the jelly to cool for 5 minutes. Skim any foam off the top using a wide, shallow ladle or spoon.
Next, sanitize the jars while the jelly is cooling down.
To do this, fill a large pot with water and place it over medium heat. Carefully submerge the empty jars (without the lids and rings) right side up in the pot, making sure the water is about 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a boil, and continue to boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, but don’t drain it – you can use the same water to process the filled jars.
Step 4 – Fill and Process the Jars
Ladle the jelly into the sterile canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of room at the top. Tightly screw on the lids, and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Feel free to use the same pot and the water you reserved in the last step.
Remove the jars from the pot (making sure that the lids have popped) and set them aside to cool completely before storing or refrigerating.
Room-temperature pepper jelly that has been canned safely can be stored in a cool, dark place such as a pantry for up to 2 years. Once opened, store the jelly in the fridge for up to 6 months. Discard immediately if it develops mold or any off flavors.
Honing in on Homemade
If you’re wondering why you’d spend your precious time making something like jelly from scratch, not only is this an easy process, but you have to believe me when I say it’s all about the taste.
Once you taste the difference between something you’ve pulled off a shelf versus something you’ve created with your own hands, and that – let’s be honest – didn’t take that long to prepare, you’ll be thoroughly convinced that cooking is one of your superpowers.
Don’t just stop with bell peppers or jalapenos in this jelly. Think about giving it a seriously spicy spin with Thai chilis, or habaneros. Go a step further by bringing in flavorful ginger and garlic. Or change things up with your favorite combo of peppers and spices.
You can even double the recipe and give the gift of zesty jelly to those you love.
Which peppers will you reach for to personalize your batches? Share your sweet and spicy suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
For more spreads you can whip up, can, and enjoy, give these recipes a spin next:
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lorna Kring on December 16, 2015. Last updated on December 7, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”