Bookmarked recipes: Chilli jam

Spicy preserves 2

I bookmarked Jacqueline’s bookmarked recipe challenge, originally started by Ruth, a couple of weeks ago. I have tons of bookmarked recipes: a long list in my browser bookmarks, a few more stashed in Evernote, a box full of magazine and newspaper clippings, cookbooks bristling with Post-Its and bookdarts. Where to start?

Well, my recent browse through Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookbook provided inspiration in the form of tomato and pepper chutney, now maturing nicely in the larder. There’s something very satisfying about starting out with a pan full of chopped vegetables, reeking of vinegar, and finishing with these glowing jars of glossy red chutney, and it kickstarted me into more preserving. After a quick detour into Delia’s famous mincemeat, which I’ve had a printout of for ages and never made, I was prompted by the Cottage Smallholder site, fount of all knowledge about preserving, to make some sweet chilli jam using a recipe from the BBC Good Food site, a frequent source of bookmarked recipes. I love chilli jam and jelly — they make a lovely relish for cheesy and eggy things, and I’m also partial to them with scallops. I bet both jam and chutney will go very nicely with turkey too.

This is my version of the chilli jam recipe. I found the original rather imprecise in some ways. For example, it gives weights for some ingredients but then just specifies “8 red peppers”. Mine were huge, at least double the normal size, so I used four. Then it says “10 red chillies”, without any qualification — a little dangerous in my view. Throw in 10 Scotch Bonnet chillies with their seeds and the jam will blow your head off. I did like one comment on the BBC site which queried the “finger-sized piece of ginger” because “I have big hands”! As always, nothing beats tasting and adjusting as you go.

8 medium or 4 large red peppers
4-8 chillis, depending on taste
about 1 inch of root ginger
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
400 g fresh tomatoes, or the equivalent of canned tomatoes
750 g golden caster sugar
250 ml red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

Deseed and roughly chop the peppers. Cut off a tiny bit of one of the chillies and taste it, then use your skill and judgement to decide how many to use and whether to include the seeds. Mine were large but not that hot; I used four, two with seeds and two without, and the end result was certainly hot enough for me. Roughly chop the chillies and throw them into a food processor with the red peppers and garlic. You’ll need to do this in a couple of batches. Whiz to chop everything finely, but don’t reduce to a puree. Tip into a large heavy pan. Wash your hands thoroughly to avoid any chilli-related accidents later.

If using fresh tomatoes, roughly chop them. You might also peel them; I didn’t bother, but later realised it might have been a good idea with the novelty black ones — I ended up fishing the black skin out of the jam with tongs because it didn’t look very nice! Grate the ginger into the pan and add the tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about 50 minutes.

Put some clean, rinsed and dried jars and lids in a low oven (about 100 C) to sterilise them. At this point you might want to extract a spoonful of the jam, let it cool a little, and taste it. Then if you think it needs more chilli or ginger, you can add some. If you think it needs less, you’re a bit stuffed 🙂 Turn up the heat a bit and boil until the jam gets thick and sticky and, well, jam-like. The original recipe says 10-15 minutes, but don’t rely on this. Mine took much longer, about 40 minutes. Just keep cooking, stirring very frequently to stop it catching. When it’s ready the bubbles will be big and gloopy, the jam will look glossy and translucent, and drawing the spoon across the bottom of the pan will leave a clear patch for a second.

Remove from the heat and pot in the hot jars, sealing well. It will apparently keep for 3 months, but the jars should be refrigerated once opened.

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