I love this time of year for many things, but mainly because it’s time to get the jam pan out and watch my Mum whip up batches of her legendary jams and jellies.
The scent is better than any candle you could ever buy and the house fills with it. It smells like the best moments of my childhood. Of course over the years I’ve learnt that the perfect time to appear is just as the jam needs testing to see if it has set. That’s the earliest she’ll ever let you have a taste you see, before that point it’s just plain torture!
It was only natural that I set about to make some chilli jam with the gigantic crop that our chilli plants offered up this year. For the heat fearing, this isn’t a super hot recipe. It’s sweet and flavourful with just a kick at the end. If you’re looking for the best chilli jam recipe, The Guardian even agree that I have it.
I know lots of people have given Nigella Lawson’s chilli jam recipe a go but I have two issues with hers. Issue 1 is the biggie for me. Nigella tells you to sterilise your jars but then advises you to leave the jam to cool for almost an hour and then pour in to cold jars. I’m at a complete loss. Hot jam and hot jars create a seal. Cool jam and cold jars create a not very well preserved, preserve. Kind of pointless.
Issue 2 is more just a matter of preference for me. Nigella advises using pectin powder to set her chilli jam, I’d rather use the unprocessed pectin found in apples because it’s natural and cheaper!
So yes, this chilli jam recipe is properly preserved. The jars are sterilised and sealed and the lids “pop” just like you’d expect anything from the supermarket to. It’s set naturally using the pectin from crab apples – like jam should be.
My Dad thinks chilli jam works a treat in a steak baguette. I love to dip beer battered king prawns in it or spread on hot crusty bread. Smother salmon fillets before baking, liven up a burger, serve with a cheese board or cold meats, spice up sausages, mix in to mayo…
Just before we get to the chilli jam recipe, I should highlight the step that throws most people. It involves putting a plate in the fridge. I know that sounds a bit strange but it’s part of the technique that rules all jam making in our house. It will help you to be sure that your chilli jam will set. Knowing this trick and having a Maslin pan are all you need to get started with jam making.
I’ve come back to update this recipe 18 months after it was first published. The notes section below now includes answers to the most FAQs for this recipe but please do leave a comment or email me (email@example.com) if I can help with any troubleshooting or if you just want to shout about how darn tasty your chilli jam is!
- 5 x 200ml jars
- 100g Chillies
- 1.2kg Sugar
- 470ml Apple cider vinegar
- About 8 small crab apples (or 3 large cooking apples)
- Begin by sterilising the jars. There are numerous ways to do this but my preference is to wash the jars and put them in a roasting tin (without their lids) then heat in the oven from cold to 100 degrees Celsius.
- Put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.
- Now to prepare our ingredients. Trim and deseed the chillies then pulse in a blender. Remove any loose stalks from the crab apples and pierce the skin in several places.
- Add all of the ingredients to a large, heavy bottomed pan. Stir briefly, then bring to a rolling boil for around 15 minutes.
- Here is where our plate comes in handy. With a spoon, drop a small amount of jam on to the plate. After a minute or two, give the jam a gentle push with your finger. If the jam wrinkles or 'skins up', your jam is ready. If not, keep checking every 5 minutes until you get it there.
- When your jam passes the plate test, remove the apples and skim any foam off the top. Take your jars out of the oven and ladle in the hot jam. Unless you have extraordinarily steady hands, you'll probably need a funnel to do this, or failing that a jug.
- Screw the lids on tightly and leave to cool. If you hear loud pops, that's a very happy jam noise -the buttons in the lid are inverting to show they've sealed. Wahoo!
The heat of the jam is entirely determined by the type of chillies used. I use a medium heat which gives the jam lots of flavour but only a small kick of heat. To make it hotter, try leaving some of the seeds in or picking a more potent chilli
Should I use jam sugar?
My recipe uses ‘normal’ granulated sugar. Jam sugar has added pectin, which in this recipe we’ll be getting naturally from the apples.
My jam is still very runny in the pan. Is it ready?
If the jam passes the plate test described above, it is ready and will be a thick jam consistency when cooled. Don't allow it to boil for any longer once it wrinkles on the plate test or it may catch.
The colour is different. Is that normal?
The colour of the final product also depends on the types of chilli used, you could add a little food colouring if you would like a more vivid jam, or even jalepenos for a green version!
How can I make sure my jam doesn't catch or burn?
Top offenders are:
– Boiling/reducing for too long - don't leave the jam unattended whilst boiling and make sure you use the plate test regularly to ensure you take it off the heat as soon as it is ready.
– Using a pan with a very thin base. This means the heat can’t disperse as evenly and it is more likely to catch. A good quality jam pan is a worth while investment for recipes like this.
Will the chilli bits be evenly distributed throughout the jar?
By pouring the hot chilli jam straight in to the hot jars, some bits of chilli will rise to the top during cooling. To distribute them more evenly, try inverting the jars after around 10 minutes. Please don't leave the jam to cool in the pan though - it's important to put it in the jars straight away.
Chilli jam for gifting and eating obscene amounts of in one go. I think I’ll be making more for Christmas, but for now, I’m going to dip homemade tortilla chips in it. Have a great day!