At last, today, I finally had enough red chillies to meet the 150g requirement for the chilli jam recipe I had found. In all it took 21 Cayenne, 37 Little Elf and most of a 7 inch Ohnivec chilli to meet the weight, stalk end removed. The Ohnivec made the cut due to the fact it was damaged and not suitable for pickling, so I used the red bit, binned the damaged bit and still have the light green tip to use for something else. At this point I should say that contrary to the recipe, I opted not to remove the seeds from the chillies (have you seen the size of the Little Elves?) which probably means that this batch will not be suitable for the Mudlets.
I had come across a Nigella Lawson recipe which seemed to use less ingredients than others I had seen and appeared to be relatively quick and easy to make. I won’t detail the recipe due to the fact it isn’t mine but should you wish to check it out for yourselves, then you can find it here.
This recipe calls for the sugar to be dissolved in the vinegar over a low heat without stirring. Not stirring a sugar/vinegar mixture whilst jam/preserve making goes against all custom, as it is supposed to help prevent the sugar sticking to the pan. Also not stirring a mixture makes the whole dissolving process take much longer and is a very, VERY difficult instruction to follow, as a cooks instinct is to do the exact opposite. Having read many comments about this particular recipe both on Nigellas’ site itself and on other peoples blogs, I discovered that the jury was out on whether or not stirring the mixture at this stage would cause any problems. Some said that stirring the mix would affect the clarity of the finished jam and one person even went as far as to say that stirring jam sugar disrupted the setting properties in some way, although they didn’t actually know how. Others commented that they had stirred and it hadn’t appeared to make one jot of difference.
In terms of stirring the jam during cooking, the recipe didn’t even mention stirring at all until the jar filling stage! Oh that was a difficult instruction to follow and I admit that I did stir the mixture both when the sugar was dissolving, although to be fair it had been chugging away for some 10-15 minutes by now and I needed to see if the sugar had finally dissolved, something not easy to ascertain from just looking into the pan and I also stirred when the chilli and sweet pepper mix was added. Overall though, from everything I had read, it became clear that whether they had stirred the mixture during processing or, as per instructions, at the end, getting the jam to set had been achieved or not, in equal measure. However, those whose jam had not set were happy to use their finished product as a tasty pouring sauce, or popped it back on to boil some more but at the correct jam making temperature (104c/220f) this time, again with mixed results. Either way, the finished jam was not supposed to be set firm like shop jams but quite soft, more jelly like.
So with the sugar in vinegar on the Rayburn hob, I removed the stalk end from all of the chillies, chopped the larger ones into chunks but left the Little Elf ones whole and then popped the whole lot into my blender …… which, it turns out, is quite blunt after 7 years or so of use! Once the chillies were blended, supposedly into finely chopped pieces, 150g of chunks of cored and deseeded sweet red pepper were added but didn’t blend well. So I needed a rethink and pulled out the main mixing bowl of my processor and the bladed chopping attachment. This made short work of the processing and may have chopped things a touch too fine but my mixing bowl was peppered with tiny red flecks as per the recipe.
I scraped the mixture into the sugar vinegar ….. and stirred to mix. Well it was all just sitting there, in the middle of the pan, not doing anything!
Here is where I strongly recommend you to remember to wear suitable gloves if you have them,during the entire chilli prep and scraping sections and, if you don’t have gloves, may I suggest that using ones washed but ungloved hand to reach into the bowl to get the last of the chilli flecks out and into the pan is absolutely NOT a good plan ….. unless that is you really do want to find out how many tiny cuts, nicks and scrapes you have on the aforementioned ungloved hand!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Lesson learned.
Now the main thing to remember about jam making is that it is not the length of time that you boil the mixture that is key to the success of a set jam. No! You could have your mixture at a ‘rollicking’ boil for a week and it will still not set unless it has reached the jam making temperature and the only way of ensuring that this temperature is achieved, is by using a jam thermometer. I know this from last year and yet I still hadn’t got around to purchasing one. Thankfully my friend Christine had one and she was kind enough to lend it to me and so I was able to boil the jam at the correct temperature.
With jars already prepped and sterilised, it wasn’t long before I was spooning my gloriously red, sticky and hot mix into them. With the lids in place, I left it to cool down overnight and this morning on tilting the jars there is still some movement of the contents and so I suspect that it will be more of a pouring consistency than a jam but so long as it tastes nice, I can live with that.
This mixture actually filled the three little screw top Kilner jars and an empty jar I had in my cupboard, although I have no idea of the capacity of any of the jars used – sorry. I added a label to the three Kilner jars with “Mrs Muds Chilli Jam Pouring Sauce” emblazoned in gold gel pen (thank you Little Mudlet), so I can pretend that the mix is either jam or sauce depending on the actual consistency when opened ….. see, I think of everything!
EDIT: It’s jam!!! Gorgeously sweet, very hot, sticky, soft set and absolutely not pouring consistency, chilli jam!!! I am so pleased and even Mud thought it was fabulous. The Mudlets tried a tiny amount, declared it nice but too hot for them. Yay 😀