End of season harvests can be a little unpredictable. Some years it seems the garden quietly slows down on its own, while other years, it keeps on roaring right until the end. A lot of rain and a “second August” have put this year’s garden firmly in the second category, at least where the peppers are concerned – and especially where the hot peppers are concerned.
I searched through dozens and dozens of recipes, looking for one that would be remarkable in both appearance and flavor. I wanted a recipe that would use a variety of peppers, and I especially wanted to incorporate the latest harvest of habaneros, as they have a wonderful fruity, almost floral quality that seemed perfect for a jelly, but would also pack enough heat to cut through the sweetness.
I knew I had found the right place to start when I found a recipe that also called for dried apricots. Everything about this recipe perfectly captured my desire to bottle up this late summer – early fall perfection and preserve it.
There was just one small problem: the recipe only made a few jars of jelly.
Small batches of jams and jellies are great when you have smaller quantities of fruit, or just want to try out a new recipe before fully stocking the pantry with it, but sometimes a large batch is exactly what you need to conquer a particularity abundant harvest, or make enough to gift to family and friends. And so it came to be that last Saturday, I made two, back to back quadruple* batches of pepper jelly.
That is a lot of fine dicing, but oh so worth it in the end!
I would also highly recommend finely dicing the apricots instead of slicing them. The size of the apricot slivers was fine when they were going into the pan, but after a few hours of soaking, the pieces seemed a little too large given the fine treatment given the peppers and onions and the size (and length) caused a lot of the pieces to clump together a bit once the pectin was added. I remedied this with the second batch and was much happier with the results. If you do decide to go with larger pieces of dried fruit, I would recommend increasing the soaking time to allow them to soften a bit more.
The final result is pretty amazing. The jelly is sweet, savory, spicy, and a little tangy – and I love how it looks in the jars (it looks pretty sitting on the counter in normal indoor light, but hold it up in bright sunlight, and wow!). This one is a keeper – and if the handful of green habaneros that I just can’t bring myself to pluck from the plant yet make it – one that I will even be making one more time this year.
Note to Mother Nature: I’ll take this kind of end to the garden season any time.
[double, triple, or quadruple quantities for a larger batch*]
1/3 cups finely diced dried apricots
3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup very finely diced red sweet pepper
1/4 cup very finely diced red onion
1/8 cup very finely diced habanero pepper
1/8 cup very finely diced green chili peppers (jalapeno, serrano, etc. or a mixture)
3 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin
Combine finely diced apricots and vinegar in a large pot, cover, and allow apricots to soak for at least 4 hours.
Carefully (i.e. wear gloves when handling the habaneros and other hot peppers) remove seeds from peppers and dice very finely, along with the onion and set aside.
After apricots have had time to soak, add sugar, stirring until fully incorporated (mixture will be thick, but will quickly become more liquid). Fold in peppers and onion and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil over high heat. When mixture reaches a rapid boil (cannot be stirred down), add the liquid pectin and return to a boil for exactly 1 minute.
Remove from heat, skim off foam, and fill sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: 3-4 half pints per batch
Recipe adapted from Bernardin Home Canning
*A quick note about flexing this recipe: As a general rule, it is not advised to increase jam and jelly recipes. There is a science to the process, and doubling the recipe can lower the quality of the final product. However, in my extensive search of pepper jelly recipes, I found many tried and tested recipes for larger batches that called for proportionate quantities of similar ingredients, which is my basis for flexing this recipe. If you increase this recipe up to four times, it is equal to these larger batch recipes, and in my own kitchen trials, I did not see or taste a difference in quality (perhaps the original recipe may have even been pared down to a small batch recipe from a similar large batch recipe at some point). I would not recommend increasing this recipe more than four times.
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