TCP Kitchen
Make-Ahead Holiday Helpers
Some dishes can be prepared in advance

Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly
IMAGE: Jody Horton

Strategic planning makes hosting a holiday feast more enjoyable, so we asked readers for recipes that provide a jump-start on entertaining. I asked my friend Stephanie McClenny, owner of Confituras Little Kitchen (a community kitchen plus locally sourced jam and biscuit shop slated to open in Austin in late 2016), for her favorite secret weapon. Her response? Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly. Her recipe yields enough for your own party, plus a few holiday gifts for guests.


Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly

“This bright, jewel-toned pepper preserve offers the sweet Texas heat that pairs so well with creamy cheese,” says McClenny.

2 cups whole fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs removed according to your heat tolerance)
4 cups white distilled vinegar
6 teaspoons calcium water (packaged with Pomona’s Universal Pectin, see cook’s tip)
5 teaspoons pectin
6 cups white or organic cane sugar, divided use

1. Pulse cranberries and jalapeño pieces in a food processor until finely chopped, taking care to scrape down any larger pieces from time to time so pieces are fairly uniform in size.

2. Place cranberry mixture into a large pot. Add white vinegar and calcium water. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer on low 5–10 minutes until mixture softens.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk pectin into ½ cup sugar until well incorporated. Return cranberry mixture to a boil and slowly whisk pectin mixture into pot, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Bring back to a boil and whisk in remaining sugar, again bringing back to a boil.

4. Check the set of the jelly by placing a teaspoonful onto a plate and placing in freezer for a few minutes; when nudged, jelly should wrinkle but not be too firm. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. It should taste hot, but the heat will be toned down by pairing with other foods. Keeps for many months when chilled or canned according to U.S. Department of Agriculture instructions.

Makes 8–10 8-ounce jars.

Cook’s Tip

Pomona’s Universal Pectin ( is a natural product derived from citrus. The package includes a packet of monocalcium phosphate powder and instructions for using it to make calcium water.

TAGS: Food, Holidays, Recipes, TCP Kitchen

4 Comments Post Your Comment »

I was really excited to try this, but unfortunately the recipe calls for Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is not available anywhere within 200 miles of me. I know I will never order it (I’m just not that organized with my cooking) and it is really expensive. Is there another pectin product that I can find in the Rio Grande Valley?
Debi Deason - Edinburg, TX - Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. (November 8, 2016)
Although the recipe is originally written for the use of Pomona's Universal Pectin, any commercial pectin may be used. Food Editor Paula Disbrowe says pectin is widely available. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as the ratio of fruit/vinegar/sugar may be altered depending on the pectin product used. Most pectin products include recipes and guidelines for the most common types of jams and jellies. Tom Widlowski, Associated Editor
Tom Widlowski - Austin, TX - Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (November 9, 2016)
Reader Jean Marsh, Mid-South Synergy, writes: I made the Cranberry/Jalapeno jelly today that was in this month's magazine. It was good and jelled great but seemed tart. I just want to be sure that the recipe does call for 4 cups of vinegar. I looked at several other recipes and none called for that much although calling for more sugar. I haven't tried it over cream cheese and that will help but just wanted to ask before I made more for gifts. Food Editor Paula Disbrowe responds: Yes that's correct, it's meant to be on the tart (not too sweet) side. Pairing it with cream cheese or goat cheese will definitely help balance the acidity.
Tom Widlowski - Austin, TX - Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (November 11, 2016)
A reader raised this point: This recipe needs to be finished. Where are the directions about jarring and water bath instructions? Editor’s note: Please click on the link above for complete details about canning—including required safety measures—provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. —Tom Widlowski, Associate Editor
Tom Widlowski - , TX - Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (January 4, 2017)

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