Canning can take some of the pressure off of holiday entertaining because the jars can be prepared and stored at a convenient time until needed. There is little easier than opening a jar of Christmas Pepper Jelly, pouring it over a block of cream cheese and surrounding the treat with water crackers. Two minutes later and most of the crowd will be there not at the shrimp pile or the duck canapes. But holiday canning doesn’t stop with entertaining. These little jars are coveted prizes when given as gifts. Anyone can purchase a bouquet of flowers or buy a bottle of wine but very few can offer the fresh tastes of home preserved goodness. And it speaks volumes since the maker’s heart and soul are part of the little jar.
Let’s start this season with a Christmas Pepper Jelly. I don’t use hot peppers in this recipe but they can be added with an equal portion of the bells removed. This will keep the ingredients in proper proportion to insure good and fast jelling. I do not use red and green food dyes. Daily there is more written about these dangerous chemicals and it is just a matter of time before the FDA orders removed the ones they have not already from grocer shelves. They are always the last to act because of food conglomerate lobbies but be safe not a holiday statistic. I use white 5% acidity vinegar so the colors of the red and green bells come through. Since the pepper chunks shrink when heated I make the diced squares a bit larger than for regular pepper jelly because color here is as important as flavor.
CHRISTMAS PEPPER JELLY
- 1 1/2 cups Red Bell peppers 1/4 to 3/8 inch diced
- 1 1/2 cups Green Bell peppers-same dicing
- 1 1/2 cups Vinegar, clear (grain, distilled 5%)
- 6 1/2 cups Sugar, white-granulated
- 2 TBLS Red Pepper flakes-brings out the flavors of the peppers
- 1 Package Certo liquid Pectin (or equivalent)
Place all in a non reactive (stainless) pot, bring to a strong boil on high heat and hold for 30 seconds. Add the pectin, return to a strong boil and hold for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Pour into 1/2 or 1/4 pint sterile jelly jars, seal with sterilized lids (for sterilizing tips see previous blog or reference Putting Up, the authoritative volume on safe canning practices, available at bookstores everywhere) and invert for two minutes only. Turn right side up and watch for jelling. The peppers will continue to float to the top until the liquid begins to solidify. Shake to disperse particulates as jelling begins. Allow to cool without moving for about 4 hours.
To give as a gift, I like to get thin calico seasonal fabrics and cut into circles about 4 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. I carefully remove the canning ring taking care not to unseal the lid. I place the fabric over the jar top and replace the ring; a perfect greeting gift and not available in stores.
1/2 cups Red bell peppers