Cranberries Meet Sweet-Hot Chili Jam for Thanksgiving

2013 1130 IMG_3576 Spicy cranberry sauceHere’s the perfect holiday condiment. It works as well with goat cheese and crostini as it does with turkey and stuffing. Every year at the end of the fall season, I go to the farmers market and buy the last of the fleshy sweet red peppers and red jalapenos and make sweet-hot chili jam. This is one of the most highly referenced recipes on my blog, and was adapted from Pam Corbin’s preserving book published by UK’s River Cottage. I am re-printing it below for reference. 

This year, I noticed David Tanis’s version of a spicy cranberry sauce in the New York Times and, guess what, it was sweet hot chili jam made with cranberries instead of sweet red peppers. What a great idea.  I therefore made two versions of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. Plain whole-berry sauce is simple. Place a 12-oz bag or 1 dry pint of cranberries in a saucepan, add ½ cup each of water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, Boil until the berries pop, about 5 minutes (or reduce to a simmer and cook longer). Set aside to cool.  (This is half the amount of sugar and water as most versions since I like my sauce thick and tart.)

For David Tanis’s version, place 1 cup of sugar (you could decrease this amount) and ½ c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Add 12 oz to 1 dry pint cranberries, 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger, 1-2 red jalapenos blitzed in the mini chopper or diced by hand, juice of half a lemon or lime, a pinch of salt, and ground cayenne pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the berries have all popped and the liquid has reduced, about 15 minutes. Note that there’s so much pectin in cranberries that the sauce will firm up when cooled, so you don’t have to evaporate the liquid as Tanis suggests.

2013 1130 IMG_7760 Sweet hot chilil jamHere’s the master recipe for Sweet-Hot Red Pepper Jam, which I published in 2010 for the Hungry Tigress’s Can Jam. I also make variations on this, including adding cardamom or star anise to the mix (watch out, a little goes a long way), which is especially good at Christmas. Another version might have chipotle powder or chilis in adobo for a hot smoky touch.  Trust me, this is addictive. I hear that one member of my family eats it right out of the jar with a spoon.

Sweet-Hot Red Pepper Jam adapted from Pam Corbin, River Cottage Preserves

1 lb red bell peppers (about 3 peppers)

¼ lb red jalapeno peppers and/or other red hot chilis (about 3-4 peppers)

1 ½-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

¾ c cider vinegar

2½ c granulated white sugar

1 ½ tsp pectin powder

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

½ tsp salt

Prepare the peppers. Remove the seeds and ribs, taking care with the hot peppers not to touch the flesh too much, and certainly don’t touch your eyes after you’ve been handling peppers since the oils will burn you. Wear rubber gloves when handling numerous hot peppers or use a sharp knife and sharp-tined fork, my preferred method.  Cut them into chunks and place them in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop finely but don’t liquefy them.

Finely mince the ginger (you can add this to the peppers but cut it finely first since its harder texture will cause it not to chop to the same consistency as the peppers).

Add the chopped peppers and ginger to the vinegar in a large saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer.  Add the sugar, pectin and lime juice and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes, then turn off the stove and let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes. (Alternatively, simmer the pepper mixture without the pectin until thickened and add the pectin at the end, cooking hard to develop the gel.)

Prepare jars and lids for canning (I used 4 oz jars but 8 oz/half-pint would be fine). When ready, reheat the jelly/jam to a boil and spoon into the jars.  If the peppers are not well distributed in the liquid, let the mixture sit for a few minutes and stir. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Remove the lid, turn off the stove and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing to rest undisturbed until cool.

Makes up to eight 4 oz jars.

Categories: Berries, Peppers, Preserving, ThanksgivingTags: ,


    • I used Sure-Jell. Sure-Jell and Pomona’s are not interchangeable. I became aware of Pomona’s after I made this and have not yet adapted the recipe, which would involve an adjustment of the level of sugar and a slightly different method. Sure-Jell contains more than pectin, specifically citric acid and dextrose. I am planning on a new experiment, using Pomona’s and also my home-made pectin, which is basically green apple jelly. Some people have notified me that they needed a lot more pectin to achieve a gel. My jam is somewhat fluid, more like a sauce than Jello. It’s possible that they used another sort of pectin or had different expectations.

      Thanks for asking. It’s a great question and one that I will consider going forward. Good luck with the jam. I hope you find it as delicious as we do.

  1. Juli J

    Just when I was wondering what to do with my extra cranberries! I love the pepper jam this is based on, will have to try the cranberry version too!
    I’ve found I prefer the pepper jam to be more fluid, like a sauce, instead of too firm and jammy.

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