My love affair with chilli jam began a while ago. I purchased an interesting-looking jar from my favourite deli in Liverpool, and quickly fell hard for the stuff.
The first time I had it, I smeared it inside a baguette, stuffed said baguette with brie, and toasted it in the oven. I would never love again.
I used it sparingly, savouring every last little droplet. Then, I ran out.
I had already moved up to Scotland, far away from my specialty foodie shop, so I considered making my own. Then, upon finding a bunch of recipes online, each one different (and in heavily distinct ways), I gave up on that task. Then I was wandering along the street at a local farmers' market, and I magically found some that were local and homemade. I actually had a conversation with the guy who made them.... my hopes were high.
But when I got home, they were actually not very good. The mixture was far too runny and not hot enough for my liking. So I fixed them by adding more chillies and heating the mixture up in a saucepan, simmering for a while to see if the pectin just needed some activation. Some of the extra water steamed out of it and they firmed up a bit, thus renewing my confidence. I could, indeed, make chilli jam after all, and I didn't need 100 different recipes out there confusing me. Turns out, I only needed three ingredients and a little bit of science knowledge.
Science fact number 1: Apples + Water + Heat = Pectin. You need pectin for jellies and preserves. It's in all fruits and vegetables, but it has a high concentration in apples. This is something that the evil giants of food industry don't want you to know. You don't need to buy Certo or jam sugar or any of that extra stuff. You can make your own, and in the easiest way - by boiling apples in some water. Tart, unripe apples have more pectin than sweet, ripe apples, so I tend to use Bramley (popular here in Britain) or Granny Smith.
Science fact number 2: Pectin + Sugar + Heat = Jelly. Pectin by itself is all well and good, but it doesn't do much. It needs sugar to firm up and make those nice, thick jellies and spreadable preserves. Don't forget about sugar.
Chilli + Apple Jam
4 large-ish apples, any kind will do (I use Bramley or Granny Smith)
6 red chillies (2 de-seeded, chop the rest with seeds & ribs included)
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
Roughly chop up the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water. Simmer gently until the apples are completely cooked through, adding more water if needed. The water will boil off when you're not looking, and it's ok to add more. Bear in mind that you're looking for about a cup of liquid in the end - just add some more water until you have about 1 cup.
Allow the mixture to cool completely, then strain out solids using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. I've seen advice about not pushing down on the solids to extract more juice. It's true that it does make the juice cloudy, but it doesn't effect the flavour at all, and you DO get about twice as much liquid. Leave the mixture to chill in the fridge overnight (I waited about 3 days, due to laziness). Some of the solids will have settled to the bottom - simply leave them behind when you pour the juice out into a saucepan for the next steps. At this point you should have about 1 cup of liquid. ***
Place juice in saucepan with minced chillies and sugar. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes. Test a few drops on a chilled plate to see if the jam has firmed up enough. If so, then you're done! Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator and cherish every spoonful.
*** Stop the presses! What else do you want to make? At this point, you can add whatever your heart desires to this mixture, making any kind of jam you like (like plums!). Or, you can not add anything to it, and make yourself a simple apple jelly.