Last Christmas, following months of living off maternity leave pay, I needed to be frugal for the holidays. I decided to be creative and approach gift giving from a homemade perspective: more thought and less expense. I tried my hand at Christmas puddings, mince pies and jars of chilli jam. All of which I am making again this year!
I chose to make chilli jam because my mother loves it – but cannot get it where she lives in France. She usually purchases a jar when she comes over to the UK and then will have the tiniest scraping with cheese or ham and makes that jar will last all year! Once the jar is empty she has to return to using regular chutney.
This basic supply and demand equation has turned chilli jam into a luxury item in our family!
I first used a recipe from the wonderful Nigella Lawson – but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I found it slightly too vinegary, insufficiently hot for my taste – and I also couldn’t get it to set. So – I have adapted that recipe to create something that works for me, each time I use it.
I made my first Christmas batch yesterday. My French au pair eyed it suspiciously when I gave her a teaspoon to try – but was soon asking if we really had to give all the jars away. Couldn’t we keep them for us? As such, I will be making a second batch today – and she will be taking a jar home for the holidays to her own mother!
- 75 grams long fresh red chilli peppers (deseeded and roughly chopped)
- 75 grams Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers (preferably red but a couple of green won’t impact the colour/deseeded and roughly chopped)
- 150 grams red peppers (cored, deseeded and roughly chopped)
- 1 kilogram jam sugar (sugar with added pectin to set the jam)
- 500 millilitres cider vinegar
You will need 4-5 old jam jars with vinegar proof lids. Last year I bought a set of jars especially, but this year I have saved pretty jars to recycle. Make sure they are fully washed and sterilised before filling.
- Put your jam sugar into a wide, medium sized pan. Gently pour the cider vinegar over it.
- Put the pan over a very low heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir! (I don’t really understand why but have learnt that if you agitate the mixture by stirring there is a chemical reaction which creates an unpleasant layer of scum. So, be patient as the superior results are worth the wait!)
- Put the chilli peppers into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Empty the bowl and then do the same for the red peppers.
- Add the chilli-pepper mixture to the pan*. Bring the pan to the bubble, then leave it for a molten boil. From the first major ripple (see photo), leave it to bubble for 10 minutes. (It can get a bit excitable and boil over so stay close to monitor it!)
- Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for about 40 minutes. The liquid will thicken and become more jelly-like as it cools. (In the unlikely event that it doesn’t become sufficiently thick and viscous – put it back to boil for another 5 minutes.)
- Ladle into your jars. I find a jam funnel is very useful for this purpose – but by no means necessary.
*Next – learn from my mistakes… wash your hands several times before touching the baby – or taking out your contact lenses!
For Christmas gifts, I make jam lid covers from circles of festive coloured material and tie them on with gold or red ribbon.
I’ve never had complaints from those receiving this jam as a gift… but I’ve had a lot of requests for more!