recipe: firey pepper jam

The Hot Pepper Jelly Cafe in North London was one of my first favourite spots for brunch and, surprise surprise, they did a great line in spicy pepper jelly which was the star of the show in their bacon sandwiches (I kid you not).

Preserving often sounds scary but what is great about this recipe is that you rely on your own eye to judge when it is thickened enough (which to honest is when it looks pretty thick), rather than having to juggle chilled saucers and pectin. If you want to dip your toe into making preserves then give this one a go, plus it makes a perfect festive gift or ruby red addition to your Christmas spread.

Slather it on a BLT, use it as the base for a great marinade, pep up your cheeseboard, add some heat and sweet to a stirfry or pasta sauce; it really is pretty useful!


You can obviously scale the recipe up or down dependent on the ingredients you have. The below made four 250ml jars for me using a giant paper bag of chillies I bought from a local grower for only £1! So make the most of your local seasonal bounty.

  • 670g of peppers and chillies – I used 435g chillies and 225g peppers but this produced a pretty spicy jam. If you mouth is not so fire friendly then dial down the chillies and dial up the peppers
  • 5 cloves of garlic, skin removed
  • 35g ginger, skin removed
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 750g caster sugar
  • 250ml red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

Useful equipment

  • Wide pan – the wider it is, the quicker the jam will reduce. I use cast iron to give a consistent temperature which reduces the risk of burning
  • Silicone spatula – not essential but it makes preserving easier as you can reach every part of the pan
  • A food processor – again not essential but if you don’t have you be prepared to do a lot of fine chopping. I used a handheld one and that worked out perfectly well
  • Clean jars


  1. Chop the stems off the chillies and peppers. Chop into large pieces and place in the food processor, along with the chillies, garlic and tomatoes. Whizz it all up until you get a fine chopped mixture (but not mush).
  2. Empty the contents into your pan. Add the sugar and vinegar and mix well.
  3. Bring the pan slowly up to a boil. Stir the jam periodically to ensure that the sugar is melting evenly (look out for a grainy feel on the bottom of the pan), as you want to avoid any sugar crystallising at a later stage.
  4. Once it has reached boiling, lower the heat and simmer.
  5. Orange/white scum will probably rise to the top during the first 10-15 minutes of simmering. Skim this off with a spoon or push it to the side then use a ball of kitchen paper to absorb it  (just remember that you are absorbing scalding hot sugar so handle it carefully).
  6. Keep an eye on the jam, turning down the heat if it is boiling too rapidly. Periodically stir the jam to ensure it isn’t catching at the bottom of the pan. It took about an hour for my jam to reach its final consistency.
  7. Meanwhile, prep your jars. My favoured method is to wash them in very hot soapy water, rinse and then dry in a low oven.
  8. Once the jam has almost reached the thickness that you want in the cooled product, turn off the heat. As there is no pectin this jam will not firm up significantly on cooling. Fill your prepared jars and voila!

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