Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Hot, peppered gifts

Fall's abundance can be turned into tasty and beautiful gifts for the holiday season

Autumn is a great time to be preparing homemade gifts for family and friends. Pepper jellies, antipastos, salsas, chutneys, among so many other favourites, make the perfect gifts for teachers, neighbours, work colleagues or house guests.

Today I’m offering two wonderful pepper jelly recipes; both not only taste delicious on a cracker with a little cream cheese, but work well as a glaze on chicken and other meats. The first recipe makes a golden jelly with colourful suspended fruit and vegetables. Serve it with cheese or melt it onto grilled or sautéed dishes to add flavour highlights.

Christmas

Pepper Jelly

1/3 cup finely sliced dried apricots

3/4 cup white or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely diced seeded sweet red pepper

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup finely diced green chili peppers, including seeds (hot or sweet)

3 cups sugar

1 pouch Bernardin Liquid Pectin

With scissors or knife, cut apricots into 1/8 inch slices. Measure into large deep stainless steel saucepan with vinegar; let stand four hours. Add diced red peppers, red onion and green peppers to apricots. Stir in sugar.  Over high heat, bring mixture to full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Add liquid pectin, squeezing entire contents from pouch. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam, if necessary.

Quickly pour jelly into hot jar, dividing solids equally among jars and filling to within 1/4 inch of top of jar. Wipe jar rim, removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down to fingertip-tight. Process 10 minutes from boiling. Makes 6 x 125 ml or 3 x 250 ml jars.

Green Pepper Jelly

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh hot green pepper, such as jalapeno or serrano

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

6 cups sugar

4 ounces pectin

4 drops green food colouring

6 (1/2-pint) canning jars with lids

Sterilize jars in boiling water; keep warm in oven. Place lids in small saucepan and bring to a boil; turn heat down, keeping lids hot. Process bell pepper and hot pepper in food processor until finely minced. Combine pepper mixture, vinegar and sugar in saucepan and bring to rolling boil. Remove from heat and add pectin and food colouring. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Let sit 24 hours before checking seals.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and with a larger, colour feature one Sunday per month.