This Saturday, I took the opportunity to add something new to my “Goddess List” (the list of all of my abilities and talents and named affectionately by a very sweet friend of mine who continually reminds me that I am indeed a goddess and deserve only the best). Because the garden has been so very fruitful this season we have a plethora of jalapeno peppers; the fridge is overflowing and the peppers have been slowly but surely wilting. My dad and I were discussing what we should do with the harvest one day and it dawned on me: hot pepper jelly.
This condiment is something my family enjoys with unabashed joy during the Christmas season. For some reason, there is nothing better than spicy green jelly and cream cheese spread on a cracker when it’s cold outside. I should interject here that while I’ve made a good many dishes and experimented in the kitchen, I have never, I repeat NEVER tried my hand at canning. And never before have had I had the urge.
I planned on joining my Aunt Mary, a seasoned canner, for a lesson, but plans fell through. Being as I’m hard headed and had canning on my schedule for the day, I decided that I would try it out myself. After all, how hard could it be? I took to the web for a recipe and got some tips over the phone. Forty dollars, two dozen jars and lids, two boxes of pectin and several sweet peppers later, I was ready!
I was excited! I had a recipe and decided I’d follow it to a T and go from there. Washing the jars, lids and rims and putting everything into pots to boil on the stove to sanitize was annoying and tedious. After I finished that chore, I began to doubt the decision to delve into this venture alone.
Chopping up a cup and a half of sweet green peppers was easy. Chopping a quarter of a cup of jalapeno peppers, however, was an ordeal and experience in and of itself. By the time I even got to this part, I was sweaty and nervous as I glanced to a huge pot filled with steamy water to sanitize my jars and a separate sauce pan bubbling over and sizzling on the stove to sanitize the lids and rims. Then, things got a whole lot worse: I think I inhaled a seed because all of a sudden my nose started burning, my eyes started watering, I started coughing uncontrollably like something was caught in my throat and I began sneezing like a son of a bitch. At this point, I cursed the peppers (I mean really REALLY cursed them), nibbled on some bread and threw the chopped sweet peppers and chopped and seeded jalapenos into the food processor to turn them into tiny slivers. Then, I dumped both kinds of peppers into a big pot, added six and a half cups of sugar, a cup and a half of vinegar, stirred it all up so it looked a little like this:
And read the recipe. I was supposed to wait for things to boil for three minutes. It was weird to see this gloopy mess come to a rolling boil and thin out, creating a thin green film around the perimeter of the pot. The timer sounded and it was time to squeeze in two pouches of thick, sticky pectin. The liquid slowed its boil and strangely morphed into a sticky boiling mess. I stirred the concoction, set the timer for minute and waited. I’d reached the last part of the recipe that I’d been waiting for! I removed the heavy, cast iron Dutch oven from the burner and set it aside to cool for five minutes, and skimmed the pot, removing a thick gooey layer. Beneath that disgusting layer lay a lovely green shade of sweet, sticky jelly! Made with my own to hands! I was so excited and broke out my canning funnel and sanitized jars, lids and rims and set to fill them all up. Sadly, I was introduced to one of the “joys” of canning: lots of work and sweat with a very little bit of product; my batch filled only six and a half jars. No matter, I thought. This wasn’t so bad; I’ll do it again and fill the rest of them! And then I realized how hot, sweaty and sticky everything was and had second thoughts. I decided six and a half jars were good enough for a Saturday afternoon.
Today is Monday and the more I think back to the hassle that canning is, I really do get why people do it. It harks back to the days when people were resourceful and used what they had in everyday life. Not to mention, anything homemade always tastes about a million times better than anything you’d get from a store, it’s much healthier and it’s not packed with preservatives and chemicals. I’m really excited that I’m developing a new skill and would like to try my hand at other forms of canning. I’m hoping that round two of jelly making’ is as successful as round one! I wonder what’ll be the next addition to my Goddess List?