Tucked away quietly in my greenhouse are some little precious gems; glossy, smooth and fire engine red. I treasure my little chilli plants because they are very unassuming vegetables; just quietly growing and chilling out all summer long while I sow seeds, pick vegetables, preserve fruit, water and weed. Then, in Autumn they continue to hang out happily while I rake leaves, compost finished crops, plant winter veg and put the garden to bed. Then, and only then, do they send out their cool chilli vibes….It stops me in my tracks and I amble over to the greenhouse as their shiny coats catch the sunlight and wink at me. Ah yes, I think, time to turn you glossy beauties into your destiny aka Chilli Jam. It lifts my heart because just as the summer vege garden comes to an end there is always chilli jam to warm me up and remind me of those sunny days.
My recipe is that of the lovely Nigella Lawson. It is so, so simple and so, so rewarding to make.
Gather your chillies and feel uplifted!
The ingredients for Nigella’s Chilli Jam are as follows:
150g red chillies
150g red capsicum
1kg Jam sugar
600ml cider Vinegar
Now recipes always advise that you wear latex gloves when handling chillies. I don’t. I never have but then I see chillies as my friends and friends don’t hurt each other. If you harbour concerns that your chillies are looking menacing then perhaps pop on a pair for protection and peace of mind. Start to chop and scrape out the little seeds. I use a tea spoon to do the scraping.
Pop the chillies and pepper in a food processor…..
… and whizz until suitably blitzed to little red confetti flakes.
Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan. It’s important at this point NOT TO STIR. However, it is oh-so-tempting to stir at this particular moment. You will think “Hmmm…how do I know if the sugar is dissolved if I can’t stir it?” I thought that too and had to restrain myself from stirring to check. I ended up leaving it longer than probably necessary but I didn’t want another Greengage Jam debacle circa Summer 2012 when I made three attempts to make this preserve and burnt three saucepans; all because I hadn’t dissolved the sugar properly. Some of my friends were sympathetic; others were incredulous; My husband laughed his head off. I don’t like to talk about it anymore…. Scrape the chilli and pepper mix into a pan and bring to the boil. Nigella then firmly instructs us to leave it at a “rollicking boil” for 10 minutes. I’m not sure if “rollicking boil” is a technical term but I like it. I hope my boil was rollicking; it certainly looked energetic.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 40 minutes. You will see it turn from a syrup to a thick, viscous texture to a jelly-like texture. The little flecks of pepper and chilli will sit on top of the syrup at first and then disperse and sink throughout the mixture as it cools.
Pour the mixture into sterilized jars. People can get a bit overwhelmed by the whole process of sterilizing and worry about poisoning themselves and others. It is right to worry about poisoning yourself and others with homemade preserves but I find that this can be completely avoided if you do the following:
If you are recycling jars then soak in soapy water and remove their labels. If you have a sticky film on the jar use a few drops of tea tree oil and it’ll help to remove the sticky.
Either run the jars through your dish wash cycle or rinse and place on a baking tray (with lids) and pop into a warm oven to dry out.
I often put my jars straight from the dishwasher into the oven as I make my preserve. No germs, no poisoning! Happy days!
A little jar of liquid warmth. Great in sandwiches, with cold meats or as a marinade for chicken.