I’m excited to announce the launch of Twice as Tasty Live, a new segment of this blog project. Twice as Tasty Live incorporates the already popular workshops and expands to other events that put me in your kitchen, making and sharing delicious, homemade food.
Read more about Twice as Tasty Live events
People have been making pepper jellies for a long time. Some claim they’re Southern in origin, with roots in Texas and an official Pepper Jelly Festival in Alabama. They vary widely in color (from green to golden to red), spiciness (from sweet to jalapeno to habanero), and texture (from smooth jelly to marmalade-like spreads flecked with pepper pieces). But to ensure they store well on the shelf and in the fridge, all contain a lot of vinegar and sugar.
Although many recipes focus on the heat of chilies, I prefer a sweet bell pepper base with just a bit of heat mixed in. Many pepper jelly recipes also use commercial pectin and distilled vinegar, both of which are neutral in flavor. I prefer the depth added by fruit pectins and vinegars, so as with other savory spreads, I turn to tart apples to help the jelly set. Fresh lemon adds even more flavor and pectin.
Learn to make Sweet Pepper Jelly and Italian Plum–Apple Chutney
The first savory spread I canned, from Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation, featured tomatoes and basil. It inspired me not only to evolve the recipe but also to make other spreads that feature vegetables. Krissoff’s book also showed me the advantages of incorporating fresh fruit into these spreads. Pectin occurs naturally in fruits, and some fruits, like apples and oranges, have lots of it. Most fruits also have enough natural acid that you don’t need to add vinegar to preserve them safely. This makes them natural partners for low-pectin, low-acid vegetables.
In this week’s recipes, the apples don’t have to look or even taste perfect: you’re mainly interested in their pectin. So save your sweetest apples for fresh eating and use tart, underripe ones with your tomato and zucchini. You also have lots of choices for tomatoes and basil, but for the prettiest jars, stick to one color of each per batch.
When we think of homemade preserves and spreads, we often picture the sweet fruits of summer, like berries and cherries. But they can be so much more, especially in fall. Late-ripening tomatoes and peppers and fall-harvested onions, apples, and plums are just a few of my favorite ingredients in jams, jellies, and other spreads.
You might be thinking, “Do you really put vegetables in jam?” Yes, I do! These savory spreads are thick with flavor but not as sweet as spring and summer spreads. Because many of the vegetables are low in acid, they need to be treated differently from fruit preserves. Some have a fair amount of sugar, some are heavy on vinegar or another acidic ingredient, and many use a combination of both to create a sweet and savory blend that’s safe to process in a boiling water bath.
I have to admit that I’m a latecomer to the enjoyment of sauerkraut and other cabbage ferments and pickles. Perhaps it’s because I moved straight from a little kid eating processed hot dogs to a teenager refusing all meat—I’m not sure I’ve ever had a real sausage smothered in German sauerkraut. I’m not even a fan of coleslaw: it’s usually too heavy on the vinegar or the mayo and still fairly flavorless. It doesn’t help that for years I couldn’t grow brassicas without harvesting more cabbage moth larvae than edible cabbage leaves.
A couple of years ago, we mastered the cabbage moth problem, covering a hoop tunnel frame with mosquito netting and diligently clamping it down when we weren’t harvesting or weeding the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage protected beneath it. Once I started growing cabbage, I needed another way to deal with the enormous heads besides my favorite use: fresh, raw Asian Cabbage Salad. In discovering fermented cabbage, I learned that the variations developed around the world—from German sauerkraut to Korean kimchi—are as endless as they are for any other pickle.
Learn to make Apfel Sauerkraut and Head-Cabbage Kimchi