Growing up, there were two things I could always count on every single Christmas. My great Aunt Selma and Uncle Jiggs would send us a two pound loaf of fruitcake. That would be unwrapped, put out on our hutch in the dining room, and would look exactly the same two weeks later. I think eventually my Dad ate a piece, but I just remember walking by it thinking “Why would anyone make that?” My dislike of fruitcake remains today, even though I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten any.
The second thing I could count on was my great Aunt Bea’s Pepper Jelly. I can assure you this was my first time having a sweet/spicy combo, and I could eat buttered toast with that pepper jelly and not even realize I’d eaten five pieces of bread. Her jelly was tinted green for Christmas with crushed red pepper flakes.
I am more than thrilled that my nieces and nephews call me Aunt B., and I am happy to continue the tradition of making Pepper Jelly at Christmas time. But I decided to change up the flavor combinations, and this Cranberry Jalapeno Jelly is a delicious combination and one of my favorites.
Cranberry Jalapeno Jelly
- 2 cups jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed*
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 5 cups vinegar
- 6 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 ounces Certo fruit pectin
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring
*Please use gloves or put your hands in plastic bags before slicing the jalapenos – the capsaicin in the peppers can irritate your skin. And, um, don’t cut jalapenos and then try to put your contacts in – it’s like pepper spraying yourself! Not that I have done that personally, I heard it from a friend.
Put the cut jalapenos, cranberries, vinegar and sugar and food coloring in a blender and blend for 5 minutes.
I know that seems like a long time, but you want a really smooth jelly in the end.
Heat a big stock pot with hot water to a rolling boil. While that is boiling, cook the blender mixture over medium heat until it starts to boil. Add in the Certo fruit pectin, and bring to a boil and cook for 3 more minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and stir until the butter is melted.
Using a ladle, skim off any foam off the top.
Ladle the jelly into half pint jars (this recipe makes 7 half pints), wipe off any excess jelly on the jar, place a lid and ring on the jar and screw the cap on. Once your stock pot of water is boiling, carefully place the jars in the pot, and cook for 10 minutes.
This jelly is great not only on buttered toast, but makes a great appetizer at any get together with this ricotta cheese dip.
Ricotta Cheese Dip
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Mix the dip ingredients together. This is great room temperature, or you can put it under the broiler for a few minutes to get nice and bubbly. Put the ricotta dip on a cracker with a bit of the cranberry jalapeño jelly, and you have the most amazing sweet and spicy combo – it’s salty, sweet, spicy – the best of all worlds!
I am happy to share the tradition of jelly making in my family, and love giving gifts from my kitchen.
If you want to learn how to DIY edible holiday gifts this year, check out The Chopping Block's Gifts from the Kitchen hands-on cooking class at Lincoln Square on December 20 where you will learn how to make homemade fruit butters, conserves and jams – great hostess gifts with some homemade quick breads!
Planning to have people over during the holidays? Check out Holiday Hootenanny at Lincoln Square on December 17 where you will learn about becoming an appetizer expert by making mini beef tenderloin sandwiches with Horseradish cream; fennel spiced nuts, warm crab and artichoke dip, and curried chicken skewers with peanut dipping sauce.
I’d love to hear about any food memories you have around the holidays. Anyone else get fruitcake?! Let me know in the comments.