One of my favorite things about planning family get togethers, Friendsgiving, and birthday parties is planning the food! Who doesn’t love good conversation and delectable appetizers? I’m a big time snacker, so I love to try new recipes for appetizers any time we have family or friends over. One of my favorites is pepper jelly with cream cheese and crackers. Today I’m going to share with you the ingredients (to buy or grow yourself) and recipe to make your own pepper jelly, two methods of canning, and safe practices to use when home canning.
Over the last few summers I’ve grown a few varieties of peppers, but this year I decided to grow all of the peppers I would need to make pepper jelly. Of course, these peppers can be used in numerous ways in the kitchen, but this year I specifically wanted to try my hand at canning pepper jelly. The peppers you’ll need to grow or purchase from your local grocery are bell peppers (I used orange, green and yellow), jalapeños, and cayenne peppers. While I grew my own jalapeños, cayenne peppers and green bell peppers, I bought some orange and yellow bell peppers from my local grocery store. Next year I plan to grow the other varieties of bell peppers. Other items you’ll need to can your own pepper jelly are apple cider vinegar, powdered pectin, granulated sugar, and 8oz canning jars.
There are two methods of canning depending on what type of foods you are trying to preserve — water-bath canning and pressure canning. According to LSU Ag Center, pressure canning is the only safe method to can meat, poultry, fish and all other common vegetables not suitable for water-bath canning. The other method, water-bath canning, is used for foods high in natural acids, such as fruits, most tomatoes, pickles and relishes, jams and preserves. So for canning pepper jelly, the proper method to use would be the water-bath method. It is important to properly sterilize your jars before canning to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. You can sterilize your jars by placing empty jars into boiling water for 10 minutes and keep the jars hot (in the hot water) until they are ready to be filled. Follow the directions of your recipe to fill and process the jars for the appropriate amount of time. According to Ball Canning, processing time should be increased if you live in a higher altitude. I found the chart for time adjustment located on the bottom of the case of Ball jars that I purchased. Once you remove your canned jars, place them upright on a towel on your countertop to rest for 12 to 24 hours. After letting them rest, you can check to see if your jars properly sealed by pressing on the center of the lid — it should not move up or down. If there is movement, you will need to refrigerate the jar or research directions on how to re-process safely. Ball Canning recommends storing sealed jars in your pantry for up to 18 months. It is important to note that the sealing lids can only be used once; however, the jars and screw bands can be reused as long as they are in good shape.
One of the ingredients used when making pepper jelly, as well as in some other canning recipes, is vinegar. Whether you are using white vinegar or cider vinegar it is pertinent to use a vinegar with the proper acidity level. Recently, I saw a facebook post from LSU AgCenter that stated consumers should use vinegar with a 5% acidity level. Anything below 5% acidity cannot prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause botulism. According to the CDC, some signs to look out for are a “container that is leaking, bulging or swollen; a container that looks damaged, cracked or abnormal; the container spurts liquid or foam when opened; or the food is discolored, moldy or smells bad.” If you have any doubts about the safety of your home canned foods, it is always best to just throw it out.
My advice for anyone wanting to get into home canning is to do your research and follow the directions from trusted sources. One of my goals as a home gardener is to grow and preserve my own foods as much as possible and after trying my hand at canning pepper jelly, I cannot wait to learn more and can more. Below is the pepper jelly recipe that I made by tweaking other recipes I’ve found online. Happy gardening, happy canning and enjoy!
Pepper Jelly Recipe
- 1c finely chopped and seeded green bell peppers
- 3/4c finely chopped and seeded orange bell peppers
- 3/4c finely chopped and seeded yellow bell peppers
- 1/4c finely chopped and seeded jalapeños & cayenne peppers (I used predominately jalapeños and topped off the 1/4c with cayenne peppers)
- 1c apple cider vinegar
- 1.75oz package of powdered pectin
- 5c of granulated sugar
- 6 8oz canning jars
-Sterilize your canning jars.
-Place your finely chopped and seeded green, orange and yellow bell peppers, jalapeños and cayenne peppers in a large saucepan over high heat.
-Mix in 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1.75oz powder fruit pectin
-Stir constantly. Bring to a rolling boil and then remove from heat.
-Add 5 cups of sugar and place back on high heat. Return to a rolling boil for one minute.
-Remove from heat and skim off any foam from the top.
-Ladle jelly evenly into sterile jars, filling to 1/4 inch from the top of the jar. Cover with flat lids and screw on screw bands tight.
-Place jars into canner with hot water that is not boiling. Water should completely cover jar. Cook on high heat to reach a boil. Process for 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
- When the jars are completely cooled, check seals by pressing center of lids with finger. (if the lid springs back, the lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary).