September 25, 2010

Brewing Napalm

Last year for Christmas my friend, April, sent me a jar of habanero jelly. Boy were my taste buds in for an awakening! I'd never had it before, and April said that I only needed to use a little bit on a cracker covered with cream cheese. I took this to our New Year's Eve fete, and it about knocked my socks off. When April said little, she meant littleOnce we got the hang of it, our one jar didn't last very long.

I'm such a chicken when it comes to heat that I really hadn't planned on falling in love with this concoction, but I've had this stuff on my mind for many months. So - while preparing or fall food preservation, I decided to make some of my own. I couldn't get a hold of April at first, so I used a recipe I found online for Napalm Jelly. There is another recipe, which is very similar to the recipe April uses. This morning I made 2 more batches. Today's batches were my last attempt at making this delectable stuff. I've done 4 other batches, and there's little to nil heat. I apologize for the science project format of this post, but I think i just did my own little project. Go figure.

Just in case you're wondering, one batch only does about 7 half pint jars - so it's not a HUGE storage commitment.

1 1/2 c Vinegar
Green or red bell peppers (April's recipe calls for 3; Napalm recipe only has 1)
Jalapenos or Habaneros (April's = 12; Napalm = 2) - both say to remove stems, seeds & membranes
Sugar (April's = 7 cup; Napalm = 6 cup)
Liquid pectin (April's = 9 oz; Napalm = 3 oz; Surejell = 6 oz)
Non-Corrosive pan
Cheesecloth (April's you pour through into a 2nd non-corrosive pan; Napalm = no cheesecloth)
Jars, Lids & Bands

Experiment 1: Jalapenos + green bell peppers
Used the Napalm Jelly recipe I found online. Only have to boil for one minute, add pectin, and boil for one more minute. This recipe didn't tell me to pour it through cheese cloth, so the jelly is very opaque. Not much light shining through the jar... Only used one 3 oz liquid pectin. This one had nothing in the heat arena. Set just fine. Labeled it Sweet Pepper Jelly.

Experiment 2: Half jalapeno/half habanero + green bell peppers
Used Napalm Jelly recipe. April said she strained hers through a cheesecloth, so I did this. I like the translucency after this sets. Used one 3 oz liquid pectin. Set just fine. This batch helped me figure out that I like the flavor of habanero better - it's a little smoky, but it still didn't cut it heatwise. Labeled this Not So Napalm.

Experiment 3: Habanero + red
Used April's recipe for Habanero Jelly. I <3 <3 <3 the way this looks and the way it set. It cleared my sinus right out while it was boiling, so I was so excited about it. I doubled the ingredients (so it counts as 2 batches, right?), so there is lots of sweet goodness to go around. You boil this one for 20 minutes before adding the sugar. April said this calls for 9 oz of  pectin, but that set too firm for me. Guess what? Not so hot... Yummy yes, scorching no. Labeled this one Not So Hab.

Experiment 4: Jalapeno/Habanero + red
I used 3 red bells, 4 jalapenos (stemmed and seeded), and 4 habaneros. I stemmed and seeded 3 of the habaneros - one of them I just removed the stem and tossed it in whole. This one confirmed that I like the color using red bells. I happened to look at the menus included in the pectin box, and their jalapeno jelly calls for 2 3-oz pectins. I boiled for 10 minutes, added the 2nd pectin, and boiled for one more minute. I don't think I had the jars hot enough, and I forgot to boil the lids so that the glue would soften. I'm a little nervous about the seal on this batch. I'm also getting anxious because this is not setting. I don't know if I let some of the pulp slip out of the cheese cloth or if jalapenos just make the difference in color, but this is a bit redder than before. Currently nameless orange jelly

Experiment 5: Jalapeno/Hab + green
Today's 2nd batch. Until now I still haven't gotten to April's heat, so I decided to just go for it with this one. I used 3 green bells, 2 jalapenos (stemmed and seeded), and 6 habaneros. I left the seeds in 4 of the habaneros. Boiled for 10 minutes, added 2nd pectin and boiled for one more minute - then I strained through the cheesecloth and boiled the juice for one more minute. I tried a bit of the spillage after I had ladled this batch into the jars. I didn't get the punch of burn, but my mouth was warm for quite a while afterward. Same with this batch on the setting - it's not jelling. Getting anxious...  Currently nameless green jelly

So here's what I have to wonder:
  1. Why are you supposed to use more pectin for this type of jelly than other fruit jellies?
  2. Does boiling for 20 minutes extract more of the heat from the jalapenos and habaneros?
  3. Would I be OK with the heat from long-boiled jalapeno or do I crave the flavor and a little bit of heat from the habanero?
  4. Do I <3 this jelly enough to start planting my own habanero plants each spring?
  5. Does the 1 cup sugar difference (7 in April's, 6 in Napalm) matter when we're basically talking one cup per half-pint jar?
  6. Was my pectin expired?
  7. How do I decide which jars to keep for us and which to share?
My SIL, Shaunna, used Not So Napalm (because I did share a jar of that with her) to make Monte Cristo sandwiches (except they used fried egg on the sandwich instead of coating the sandwich French-toast-style and cooking both sides of the sandwich). I'm thinking that would be an excellent use of this jelly.

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