The market at Verrill Farm is pushing out past its walls. Tables loaded with colorful produce multiplied daily over the last month: the harvest is peaking now, as summer and fall produce intersects for a few brief weeks.
One crop I've been waiting for - waiting because our cruel New England weather punished us for most of the summer - is the red pepper. For weeks we've had jalapenos and anaheims and all sorts of heirloom red peppers (lipstick, round of Hungary, etc) but three days ago, red shishito and a number of hot reds (of provenance unknown to me) suddenly appeared, coincidentally on the same day that I had tasted a truly sublime Red Pepper Jelly made by Bonnie Shershow.
So I knew what I wanted to make: Red Pepper Jam - with a refinement. Instead of using raw red peppers, which produce quite a bit of moisture and have skin with a texture I don't really like, I decided to roast the peppers. It adds flavor, reduces cooking time, and makes for a finer-textured jam. The results were delicious. "This will taste great on a bagel with cream cheese!" said my mom, though I'm more partial to using it as a condiment for cheese.
If you prefer to use pectin instead of thickening the jam by cooking it down slowly, you can use 1 bottle of pectin and use it according to manufacturer's directions after the jam has cooked for 10 minutes or so. I don't like using pectin, so I can't tell you exactly how this will come out. If you do use pectin, let me know how it works out for you - just curious is all.
yield: 8 4oz jars
- 3 lbs Sweet Red Peppers, any variety available
- 1 lb Hot Red Peppers, mixture of types, from mild to hot (don't overdo the hots or the jam will be inedible)
- 4.5 C Sugar
- 2 C White Vinegar
- 1/2 C Cider Vinegar
- 1 C Lemon Juice (substitute Cider Vinegar if lemon juice unavailable)
- 2 Apples, peeled (reserve peels)
- 2 t Salt
- 1/4 t citric acid (optional)
Wash peppers. Place in roasting pan and roast at 375 F until skins brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, place peppers in plastic bag or plastic container and allow to steam until cooled. Once cooled, remove skins and seeds from peppers. Wear gloves for hot peppers unless you don't mind the burn on your hands.
While the peppers cool, combine sugar, vinegars, lemon juice and salt in large saucepan. Bring to a boil.
In bowl of food processor, combine peeled apple pieces and peeled peppers. Process until the peppers are a smooth paste. Add to sugar/vinegar mixture.
As the mixture boils, stir to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to a gentle boil (a rolling boil will splatter too much).
Add apple peels - the pectin in them will help set the jam.
Skim the foam from the jam. You can eat this or throw it out, but keep it separate from your jam.
At the 30 minute mark, remove the apple peels. Continue to cook until thick -about 10 minutes more or 40 minutes in total. I prefer my jam a little soft and runny, so I heat it to only 218 degrees F. If you like a thicker, more set jam, heat to 220F, the temperature at which jam sets. If you don't have a candy thermometer, use the plate test or the flake test to test for proper set and gelling.
Process immediately in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (begin timing the processing time once the water returns to a boil). Remove from water and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check seals. Refrigerate any jams that have not sealed properly.
Store in a cool, dry place. Use within a year.