OK, I know we’re all on the wrong side of the turkey coma right now, and we’ve got such full and satisfied bellies that the last thing on our minds at the moment is more food. Especially if it involves getting into potentially *tight* clothes, rousting ourselves up off the couch, out from under the Snuggie and foisting ourselves into the cold, menacing BIG BAD WORLD of crazed shoppers.
Trust me. I’m as agoraphobic and hermit-like as the next person. Never in my life have I participated in the scrum that is after-Thanksgiving shopping.
But I will be going to the grocery store tomorrow. And you should too.
Because we need to stock up on cranberries people, during this brief window of opportunity when the little critters are available. Come December 26th, cranberries will be gone with the wind, like the ghosts of holidays past, not to be seen again until mid-November 2012. And we’re gunna want them before then. Oh. Yeah. We’re gunna want them again.
Lay in the stock of cranberries folks. Stash ‘em in the deep freeze and then you can make this ridiculously easy, ridiculously delicious, ridiculously amazing Cranberry-Pepper Jelly whenever you want it. Because once you taste it, you’ll be looking for ways to eat it, in addition, that is, to simply shoveling it into your mouth with a soup spoon, while you’re standing shoulder-deep into the fridge.
It’s that good. No. It’s better.
Now, don’t be afraid. We’re gunna make a jelly. Another one of those scary *BIG* culinary projects (like pickles…..). Well, we saw how easy pickles can be, and this jelly is in that same league. No hot water baths, no exploding jars, no sugar syrup dripping from the cabinets and your hair. Just a zesty, sweet, tart, hot burst of flavor in your mouth.
Time to jell, folks….
Here’s the class picture:
Cranberries (duh…..), red bell peppers, red jalapeños, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes (gunna be spiiiiiiiii-CY), sugar and salt.
And the most important ingredient, what’s going to make our jelly, well, jelly.
Pectin. Now, I gotta say, 40-plus years of cooking, last week was the first time I ever bought pectin. There’s a first time for everything I guess.
Cranberries, fresh cranberries, already have a goodly amount of natural pectin in them. It’s what makes home-made cranberry sauce (don’t talk to me about that gunk in a can….) become sort of jelly-like when you cook them down with sugar and let them cool. The packaged pectin, which is a natural starch derived from fruits like apples and citrus, will help this jelly firm up and get that texture we’re looking for. Liquid pectin can be found, when’s you’re lookin’ for it, in most grocery stores (check in the canning supplies) and certainly on the interwebby thing.
Take the bell peppers (and yes, I’m sure you could use other colors than red, but the finished jelly won’t look as pretty and ruby-like), and chop them very finely. I was pretty tired when I started the jelly, and didn’t trust myself with a sharp object, so I blitzed them down in the Cuiz. Don’t run it too long, you want a fine chop, not a puree or a paste.
Something like this:
Do the same thing to your seeded, deveined red jalapeños. Dump them both into a large, heavy saucepan with sugar, red pepper flakes and salt. NO WATER. I was sooooo sure (because, heee-yuk, I’s a expert I are….) that that was a typo in the OR (original recipe), but it wasn’t. The red peppers will give off enough moisture when they’re heated to more than hydrate the mixture.
When the sugar dissolves, stir in some lemon juice and the magic pectin. Simmer for a bit, then throw in the crannie-berries, rinsed of course. Now, the OR says if you’re using frozen berries, to thaw them. Not so much. I was going to do that, and pulled my frozen crannies a couple of days ago. Went to use them today and mush city. Luckily I had a back-up bag of fresh ones. So next time, with frozen cranberries, I’d do what I do when I make fresh sauce from frozen berries….just rinse them and dump them on into the pot. Or only thaw them for an hour or so.
Oh. And the recipe says "3 cups of cranberries". Well, ya know what? The standard 12-ounce bag of cranberries gives you FOUR cups of cranberries. Which, when you pull out the extra cup, amounts to about 20 extra berries. Toss the whole bag in and skip on by.
When the cranberries start to pop, turn the heat down and simmer a bit more, until the juices start to thicken up nicely.
Then let it cool a bit, and pour into a jar. Which was the only hard part about the entire process. I tried to pour from the pot directly into the jar. Major slime down the outside of the jar. So I got smart. I’ll try a ladle says I. Same deal-io. By now I’ve got a nice puddle of jelly on the counter. Then I espied with my little eye the measuring cup I’d used to measure cranberries. Into said measuring cup (*with* a spout) went the jelly. Into the jar went all of the liquid and most of the cooked peppers and berries. And down the side, and into the ever-growing pool on the counter went a marginally insignificant amount of the berries and peppers. Not enough so's to make a difference in the finished product. Plenty enough to make a hell of a sticky mess. It still was probably the least tsuris-inducing means of transferring the jelly from the pot to the jar.
Let the jar cool on the counter, seal and refrigerate. Enjoy as a relish or….
Now, the reason I’m telling you about this tonight and urging you to go get more cranberries tomorrow, is that WE ALL STILL HAVE TURKEY LEFTOVERS FOR SAMMICHES !!! This is going to rock, simply rock on a turkey sandwich (tomorrow, or possibly in a few minutes when this gets launched to the ether). And I can TOTALLY see this in place of salsa or chile sauce over that ubiquitous block of cream cheese that gets set out for nibbles during the Holiday parties and open houses. Just let the cream cheese soften, and pour some of this beautiful stuff over the top. Surround with crackers, and stand back and take the compliments.
Here’s the recipe.
Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2011
Makes about 2&1/2 cups
3 red bell peppers
2 Fresno or red jalapeño chiles
1 cup sugar
1&1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup liquid pectin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
12 ounces fresh (or frozen) cranberries
Finely chop the red bell peppers and the seeded chiles. Pulsing in a food processor works well, but don’t process to a puree or a paste. Place in a heavy, wide pot over medium heat with the sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add in the pectin and the lemon juice, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the cranberries, and continue simmering gently until the cranberries burst and the juice thickens, about another 10 minutes. Transfer jelly to a jar, let cool and cover. Will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.