Chili jam is hands-down the most amazingly tasty thing I’ve ever eaten! I first enjoyed it on a veggie burger in a pub in the Lake District and, since then, whenever I’ve seen it on a menu I’ve found it impossible to resist. Strange, then, that I hadn’t considered making my own until recently.
Freezing has always been my favored method of preserving chilies for later use – simple but effective – but this year when I found myself with a not-unwelcome glut of chilies, I decided to try an alternative method. I briefly considered dehydrating, but then I remembered that delectable chili jam.
I had never made any kind of jam before, but I guess I was feeling reckless that day. I shamelessly purloined a recipe from Nigella Lawson, purchased jam sugar and cider vinegar, washed out some old jars that I’d been keeping just in case, and rushed out to the garden to pick my chilies.
Amazing Chili Jam Recipe
For the last couple of years I’ve been growing the incredibly prolific ‘Gusto Green’ chili. Despite the name, the fruits do turn red – the green refers to its unripe color. It differs from the related chili of the same name, which sports a purple hue before it ripens. I mixed these with another variety I’m growing, whose name escapes me (the seeds came free with a magazine), but which is pretty mild. I harvested all the red chilies I had that day, plus a few greens. I suppose I could have waited another day for more fully red chilies, but the memory of sumptuous chili jam was tingling on my tastebuds and patience has never been a virtue of mine.
When making chili jam – or any jam – the first thing to do is to pop a saucer in the fridge to chill, for testing the setting point later on. Wash out your jars and put them upside down on a tray in the oven at 140°C (285°F). You can run them through the dishwasher if you prefer.
You can remove all the seeds from your chilies, or leave in as many seeds and as much pith as you like to amp up the spiciness. Give them a quick blitz in the food processor. Add the flesh of a couple of sweet peppers then blitz again.
Next, the jam sugar needs to be gently dissolved in the cider vinegar. I used my heavy-bottomed soup pot for this. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, scrape the chopped chilies and peppers out of the food processor and into the pan then boil for around 10 minutes. Easy so far!
Next, the wrinkle test. Spoon a small amount of jam onto your chilled saucer. Leave it a moment to cool then push it with your finger. When I first did this, the jam did not wrinkle, but a second attempt two or three minutes later yielded the fabled wrinkling effect. Yes! Against all the odds, I had managed to not mess it up!
Now, the recipe at this point advises leaving the chili jam to cool for 40 minutes to let the ‘bits’ settle. This seems excessive to me, since most jam recipes insist that you need to fill jars while the jam is still hot. I ended up leaving mine for about 20 minutes, giving it a quick stir, then pouring it into the jars while still very warm (a jam funnel is useful here to avoid mess).
That done, screw on the lids and go out into the garden for a while. When you come back in, tired and dirty, the jam should have cooled and the lids sealed so that the ‘button’ in the centre now lies flat.
Chili Jam Ingredients
Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need:
- 150g fresh chilies (any variety you prefer)
- 150 red peppers
- 1kg jam sugar
- 600ml cider vinegar
(Based on comments on the recipe’s webpage I reduced the cider vinegar to 500ml, and increased the chilies and peppers to closer to 200g each. But you’ll need to judge this for yourself.)
Chili Jam Uses
I managed to restrain myself all the way to lunchtime the next day before opening a jar and having a taste. It was worth the wait! Sweet, rich and warming, rather than stinging hot. The heat will depend on the variety of chili you’re using and how much pith and seeds you include, of course.
I now use this on everything. Slathered on crackers, melted into a stir fry, dotted over goat’s cheese and beetroot, smeared on burgers...there is little that this cheeky little condiment does not go with! Just the thought of it on thick-sliced toast, all on it’s own, makes me drool like Homer Simpson. I genuinely cannot think of a better use for home-grown chilies than chili jam.
If you’ve made chili jam, please feel free to drop us a comment below and tell us how you love using it. Or why not share any tips for how to make it taste even better!