To make jam, you throw ripe fruit into a pot and cook. To make jelly you need actual skills. Initial steps may include preparing stock from underripe apples, then straining the stock through cheesecloth to concentrate pectin — already you have a few ways to mess this up. So I opted for a Molly O’Neill recipe that makes things easy for first timers and folks in a hurry. I couldn’t help putting a local stamp on the recipe, using red and green jalapenoes and poblanos from Alvarez Farms, but you can cut in milder chilies or even a red bell pepper to temper the heat. The jelly makes a terrific appetizer smeared on a cracker and topped with a slice of sharp white cheddar. Or use it for sandwiches with leftover roast beef or lamb.

Recipe: Hot Pepper Jelly

2½ cups seeded red and green hot peppers, stemmed, seeded, and diced finely / 6 oz apple juice concentrate / 1 tbls lemon juice / 1 oz powdered pectin / 4 cups sugar

The recipe makes 2 pints of jelly. Soak jars and lids in hot water for 10 minutes prior to filling, then remove. Combine peppers, apple juice concentrate, and lemon juice in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Slowly stir in pectin. When mixture boils again, slowly stir in sugar and boil 1 minute or so, until sugar is dissolved.

Fill jars with jelly to ¼” of the rim. Wipe rims with a damp clean cloth and screw on lids. Place in boiling water, ensuring that lids are covered by at least one inch of water. Process ten minutes at a full boil, remove jars, and cool on a rack. Within minutes you should hear the lids ‘ping’ as the jars seal off. Adapted from Molly O’Neill.

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