It’s that time in the gardening season when you look at your garden and wonder, ” What the heck am I gonna do with all those ____________?” Could be tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini. However you fill in the blank, discovering ways to use all that delicious homegrown goodness is challenging. Several years ago, I asked myself this question while staring at hill of huge jalapeno peppers. And that’s how my family formed an addiction to jalapeno pepper jelly.
Jalapeno plants are highly productive and if you don’t have a plan, in the garbage or compost bin they go. Unlike my husband, I don’t eat them like apples. Food pantries are a good option, as are neighbors, but spicy peppers are not a universally desired food. This is the moment water bath canning entered my world.
A quick search of the Ball Mason Jar website delivered the answer to a conundrum I no longer have. Because of it, I grow more jalapeno plants than I would if I didn’t love this recipe for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly so much. It’s that good. My extended family agrees and has come to expect a jar or two every summer and I’m happy to oblige. Matter of fact, I keep crackers and cream cheese handy all year when this jelly is put up on the shelf. I always have a delicious treat to offer last minute guests. We’ve also discovered how a small spoonful melted over a hamburger or grilled chicken breast infuses both with an unexpected sweet and spicy kick.
Water Bath Canning Equipment
It’s an easy process, made easier if you have everything you need ready to go before you start. As far as equipment goes, you don’t need much other than a water bath canner, lifting rack, gripping tongs and five half pint (8oz) mason jars with rings and lids. Pick a cool day, if possible, as the water bath canner gives off plenty of steam.
I made my last batch of jalapeno pepper jelly a few weeks ago on the hottest day of the year for the Chicago area. A scorching 105 degrees F with ridiculously high humidity. The A/C ran non-stop as my water bath canner pumped steam into my little kitchen. By the time the jelly was processed and out of the canner, I was a sweaty mess in need of a cold shower. Never again.
Eventually I’ll invest in Ball’s freshTECH electric canner that I can plug in on the patio. Weather will no longer be a limiting factor, unless it’s raining.
Ingredients for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
- About 12 medium jalapeno peppers
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 3-oz pouches of liquid pectin
Wash your jars, lids and rings in warm soapy water and fill your canner about half way. When the jars are full and lowered into the water, you want about an inch of water covering the lids. Place the clean jars in the canner and allow them to simmer, not boil, inside. If you skip this step, cold jars will crack when filled with boiling hot jelly. Set rings and lids aside until ready to cap.
If you like it really spicy, leave the ribs and seeds intact and add the whole peppers, stems removed, to your blender or food processor. Otherwise, wear gloves for this next step. I learned the hard way the first time I made jalapeno pepper jelly. My fingertips and the skin beneath my fingernails burned for days. It was a painful experience.
When you blend the peppers and a cup of the apple cider vinegar, you don’t want it completely smooth. The chunks will cook down during the boiling process, creating a semi-smooth jelly when finished.
Transfer the pureed mixture to the stove top and add the remaining apple cider vinegar and sugar. Once it comes to a boil over high heat, cook for 10 minutes and stir frequently. Skim the foam off the top if necessary.
After 10 minutes, add both packets of pectin. I like to open the packets as part of my prep and stand them up in a cup. It just makes adding the sticky contents a lot easier. Continue to boil hard, stirring constantly, for one more minute then remove the pot from the heat. Ball’s recipe calls for green food coloring but I’ve never added it. I prefer the natural golden color of jalapeno pepper jelly.
Processing Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
Pour the jelly into your warmed jars, stopping about a quarter inch from the rim.
Wipe the rims and center the lids on the jars. Oven mitts come in handy at this point. The jars get hot, fast. Add the bands and turn so fit is fingertip tight. No need to twist it down hard.
Add the jars to your rack and lower it into the canner. The jars should be submerged with about an inch of water covering their tops.
Cover and boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.
Remove the jars and let cool on the counter. You’ll hear popping as the lids suction to the jars. After 24 hours, check for a good seal. There should be no flex when the center of the lid is pressed. You can also remove the band at this point and hold the rim of the lid as you lift the jar. A properly sealed jar won’t separate from the lid. If a jar hasn’t sealed, don’t throw it out. It’s still good. Just use that one first and keep it in the fridge.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, unopened preserves will store in the cupboard for 12 months. Once opened, store in the fridge and eat within six months.
A jar of jalapeno pepper jelly barely last two weeks in my home! We find a reason to put it on anything and I hope you will too. Enjoy!
Are you a canner? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments.