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Scarlet Pepper Jelly

You might guess that pepper jellies and jams come from California or Texas, but one of the earliest and most influential recipes appeared in the landmark 1950 Charleston Receipts, published by the city's Junior League. Mrs. Johnson Hagood's version in the book featured red bell peppers, suggesting a leap from more common fresh pepper relishes. Other cooks heated up the jelly considerably by the next decade, adding a range of chilies. We mix bells and jalapeños, preferably red ones for a scarlet sheen. Mrs. Hagood served her preserve over cream cheese, still a popular approach, but it also makes a great glaze for pork chops or tenderloin, and it really zips up a peanut butter sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium red bell peppers, chopped
  • 6 to 8 jalapeño chilies, preferably red, seeded
      and chopped
  • 6 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. liquid pectin, such as Certo

Directions:

Prepare 7 half-pint canning jars according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the bell peppers, jalapeños, sugar, vinegar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Boil until the pepper mixture is tender, about 15 minutes. If it threatens to overflow the pan at any time, reduce the heat a bit. Pour the mixture into a food mill or through a coarse sieve and press the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Rinse the pan, return the liquid to it, add the butter and bring the liquid back to a rolling boil over high heat. Pour in the pectin, stir well, and continue boiling for 1 minute according to the pectin manufacturer's instructions. Using a clean spoon, skim off any foam, though the butter should decrease the formation of foam. Pour the jelly into the prepared jars, leaving at least 1/4 inch of headspace.

Process the jars in a boiling-water bath according to the manufacturer's instructions, generally about 10 minutes. The jelly may require several hours to set. Refrigerate the jars after opening. Makes 7 half-pints.
Adapted from American Home Cooking, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison (Broadway Books, 1999).