Chilli jam isn’t seasonal, it isn’t local, and it isn’t traditional, so it breaks all of my rules on the sort of things I usually like to cook. However, I’m prepared to be flexible for anything that tastes this good; hot and sweet, it adds the perfect finishing touch to a macaroni cheese or ham sandwich. And as for a bacon sandwich, made with crisp streaky or smoked back bacon on sliced white bread smeared with butter and chilli jam…
It also look wonderful and is extremely easy to make, so why not drag your grandchildren away from the TV and get them making jars of chilli jam to give away as presents instead?
1. Sterilize your jars. Place the empty, clean jars on a baking sheet or roasting tin. Carefully place in a hot oven (130°C OR 275°F) for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, turn the oven off and leave them to cool slightly.
2. Deseed the chillies. Chop roughly and pulse in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Handle with care, especially if young children are helping!
3. Deseed the peppers and process in the same way.
4. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a wide-bottomed saucepan. Use a very low heat and stir occasionally to prevent the sugar ‘catching’ and burning.
5. When the sugar has completely dissolved, add the chillies and peppers to the pan and stir thoroughly.
6. Bring to a firm, rolling boil for ten minutes. Test by dropping a teaspoonful onto a chilled saucer. Leave for 30 seconds and if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s ready. If you are using a jam thermometer you are looking for a temperature of 105°C or 220°F.
7. If it isn’t quite ready, keep boiling, testing every two minutes.
8. Take off the heat and leave to cool in the saucepan.
9. As it cools, it will turn to a thick liquid. Stir gently to disperse the chilli and pepper flecks before it firms fully. If it’s at the right consistency, they will remain suspended and evenly distributed throughout the jelly. This will take 45-60 minutes or so, depending on the ambient temperature.
10. Pour into the still warm jars and put the lid on, tightening firmly. As it cools, the metal lid should pop down; any that don’t should be kept in the fridge and used first as they haven’t sealed properly.
11. The rest of the jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place, and it can be eaten immediately.
Feel free to increase the amount of fresh chilli if you like it hotter, or decrease if you prefer a milder flavour. Either way, keep the total quantity of chillis and peppers as 300g. Or add some garlic or ginger, if you prefer. Whatever you do, the ingredients need to be finely chopped in the food processor and weigh no more than 300g in total.
If you have any whole chillies left over, why not hang them up to dry in a warm, airy place? They’ll dry out beautifully and can either be used in recipes in lieu of fresh chillies, or as a Christmas decoration, perhaps threaded with dried orange slices and whole cinnamon sticks.