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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.
“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.
Pomona’s Universal Pectin (pomonapectin.com) 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.