Today was the first day of the new school year, the peppers on my plants are ripe, the anemones tower tall and beautiful with their silky, pink, petals, as they elegantly dance in the breeze, the first pumpkins hang weary and round on the vine, Fall is slowly approaching with all its warm sun light, cool breeze and random rainy days. Summer has come to an end and a new year is starting.
The kids are off to school, and the house is quite, my sweet little furry friend Gina, a three-year old Dachshund, is sleeping in her bed next to me. Feels rather strange not to have to jump up from the chair because someone needs you for this or that. I am thrilled: I have 3 hours all for myself! Life’s little pleasures.
I look out of the window and notice the beautiful color of the sky, it looks like a painting, in which the painter used wide strokes of dark grey and white to represent the depth and the greatness of a Fall sky about ready to pour down some rain.
It is hard for me to say what is my favorite Season, since I love all four of them, and love to celebrate the magic of their uniqueness. Even though this is true, I must confess that I fall in love with Autumn every year. I fall in love with its colors, smells and flavors, every time. The abundance of this season is reassuring and nurturing, harvesting from the garden is always a feast at our house.
We grow lots of different kinds of vegetables, flowers, and fruits but we especially like peppers of all kinds and shapes, and we use them for all different purposes, which I will tell you all about in the coming posts: for now I will just tell you that some of them I use to dry and grind into powder to use in the winter, some I use to make peperonata (I’ll share the recipe later on), other types I use for canning, and some I use to flavor tomato sauce, and so on; but let’s not get carried away here since I want to share with you a special thing that I enjoy making every year for my family of course, but also to start making sweet thoughtful Christmas presents: spicy pepper jelly. This recipe, which originally comes from the south of Italy, precisely Calabria, makes a delicious antipasto or hors d’oeuvre. As shown in the picture below, it creates a perfect blend if eaten with cheese.
Let’s see step by step how to prepare this delicious spicy pepper jelly, for which we will need not only the hot spicy peppers but also a few red sweet bell peppers to give it consistency and a more pleasant taste. We will add sugar to give it its peculiar sweet and sour flavor and ultimately red wine to add even more depth to the recipe. Savor the jelly with different kinds of cheese, like the creamy soft goat cheese to mention one, or also a more seasoned one like for instance any kind of sheep cheese, for those of you who love a bold and determined flavor.
5 Bell Peppers
5 Spicy hot peppers
3 Tbsp granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 1/2 cups red wine
To start wash and clean the bell peppers, cut off the stem and remove all the seeds. Wash throughly and cut lengthwise to make long, thin slices and then cut into small cubes. Proceed doing the same with the hot peppers, but this time do not forget to wear gloves, since often the peppers are so spicy that they might irritate your hands and eyes.
Set all the cut up peppers into a pot, add the sugar, the salt, and the wine, then turn on the heat on low. Cover the pot with its lid, leaving just a little opening so that the steam can come out. Let it cook for about an hour. While the peppers are cooking, use this time to sterilize some canning jars with their lids. To get further instructions on how to can, there are some really good and inspiring books out there, like the “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving” for my English-speaking crowd, instead for my Italian-speaking readers, I would suggest a lovely book called: “Il libro delle marmellate, conserve, e gelatine di frutta e verdura”, in these books you’ll find all the info on how to master the art of canning. After one hour go back to your peppers, and after they cooled off a little sift or blend them in order to removed skin parts, the pepper paste should look smooth and silky. In Italy we have an old fashion tool called passatutto, which does just that so nicely: it separates the pulp from the skin, check out the picture below.
Take the smooth and silky pulp and set it back in the pot, turn the heat back on low and let it cook for another half hour (while cooking the pepper paste might form some white foam, periodically scoop it out and stir), cook until the paste will have a jelly like consistency. To verify whether or not the jelly is ready, meaning thick enough, try to scoop out a spoonful and drop it onto a dish, if the paste looks thick and jelly like it means that it’s time to remove from the heat. While the jelly is still warm pour it into the canning jars you previously prepared, making sure to leave half an inch (1 cm) from the lid, fasten the lid onto the jars, tight enough. The cooling process will make the jars air tight and this will preserve the jelly for months. Once the jars are cooled down make sure they are truly air-tight by verifying the click-clack sound in the middle of the lid: if it does the click-clack sound it means that the jar is NOT air-tight and you must eat the jelly within a week or a week and a half at most, if the lid is tight on the jar, the content is good to go for a few months. At this point you spicy pepper jelly is ready to be savored or to be put on the shelf waiting to become a lovely present for someone for Christmas. I usually set the preserves I give to people for presents in a hand-woven basket with some nice tea, a good book, and some fresh, home-made cookies!