Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mother's Day Habanero Gold

My mother used to grow lots of peppers in her garden.  Jalapenos, teeny tiny hot peppers, and most infamously, the habanero.  My mom's habaneros were giant blistering balls of sun just waiting to scorch anyone silly enough to try them.  Needless to say, the possums and skunks left them alone.  During a party as a very small kid, I ate a bite of habanero to impress the big kids who were crying over the wimpy little hot peppers. The first bite was pretty damn hot, but the second bite I hit a seed. I was too young for me to remember this, but apparently I started screaming bloody murder.  Enough stories like these, and even I am amazed I survived childhood without accidentally killing myself.

Now technically jellies have no pieces of fruit in them, so this isn't a jelly.  Its not really a jam either, its more like a savory marmalade in that there are pieces of fruit suspended in a jelly. Any which way, its a fun and easy preserve to make. I like the fact that its something fairly unique you can't buy at the grocery store, like strawberry jam, for example. The recipe also produces a small batch, about 3 half-pints, so it is very accommodating to normal size pots. If I was cooking at my mother's house, it is pretty easy to make the huge traditional 6-8 pints of preserves, but I have a very limited collection of pots and pans, none of them giant.

The fresh peppers and dried apricots are so pretty!
Now I am a bit of a coward when it comes to onions. I hate cutting them, usually end up dancing around hollering to myself, watery eyes blistering and still brandishing a sharp knife when my boyfriend comes to find out if I've lost a finger chopping veggies. So this is a true labor of love for Miss Mochi to make this preserve. And yes, I've tried cutting them underwater, which works until I need to dice them like in this recipe.  The second time I made this recipe, they had presliced red onions in the produce section. I hemmed and hawed over spending $2 on a presliced onion when a whole one would cost me like 10 cents. I eventually went with the presliced onion, which left my boyfriend chuckling and shows what a wimp I am when it comes to onions.

Habanero Gold

1/3 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper
1/8 cup finely chopped seeded and deveined habanero
1/8 cup finely chopped seeded and deveined jalapenos
3 cups granulated sugar
1 3 ounce pouch of liquid pectin

In a stainless steel pot, soak the apricots in the vinegar overnight at room temperature, or at least four hours. After that time has elapsed, add the onions and peppers to the vinegar/apricot mixture. Stir in the sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down, aka a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in the entire contents of the pectin pouch, and boil hard another minute while stirring constantly.  After the one minute, immediately take off heat and skim off foam.  Ladle into canning jars leaving a 1/4inch headspace.

You can either immediately place in fridge after cooling, or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes in order to make them shelf stable for up to a year. In order to preserve the color and taste, store in a cool and dark place.  In order to keep the pieces of pepper from floating to the top, 15 minutes after processing, gently twist the jar to distribute the pepper pieces in the jelly. This wont work if you waited too long and the jelly has already fully set, like what happened to me on my first batch. Nothing is wrong with this, its just not as pretty.

This recipe is adapted from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, you should never ever change a canning recipe unless you know what you're doing because you could upset the sugar and acid balance and cause spoiling or failure to jell. The only thing I changed was swapped out half of the habaneros in the original recipe for jalapenos, for a more balanced flavor and added color.

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