lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

i don’t think you’re ready for this hot pepper jelly recipe

Break out the cream cheese and crackers because I’ve got on an old-school classic for you that I just can’t resist sharing. This is an easy holiday appetizer recipe and guess what – it also makes a great gift! If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can swap out the cream cheese for goat or feta cheese but, no matter how you serve this, I promise that almost everyone will love it. Hot pepper jelly or jalapeno jelly is a silly-simple thing to make but it’s something I love and this is a perfect time of year for it.

This is an unprocessed hot pepper jelly recipe, as most of them you’ll find involve water-bathing or steam canning and honestly, as much as I enjoy canning, this stays just long enough to enjoy a batch without the extra work. I hot pack my jelly, so the jars seal and that, along with the vinegar in this, will be enough for a lot of people to tell you that you can put it up and preserve it without any refrigeration. Though I clean and dry my canning jars for this, I don’t sterilize them, so I refrigerate mine after processing. I have no problem keeping this batch for a month or more in the fridge and again, that’s thanks to the vinegar and hot packing process.

lola rugula canned hot pepper jelly

hot pepper jelly (aka jalapeno jelly) recipe

  • 2 large bell peppers – I typically use red, yellow or orange for the color. Remove stems and seeds and discard.
  • 4-8 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers. Remove stems and discard. Remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat.
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1.75 oz. package less or no-sugar needed Sure Jell

For me, this makes 5  of the 1/2 pint canning jars. Wash and dry your jars and lids and set aside.

Cut the bell peppers into quarters and the jalapenos in half and place in food processor. Pulse a couple of times and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Pulse again a couple of times until all of the peppers are minced. Be careful not to liquify the peppers – you just want to chop them until they’re minced. There may be a tiny bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, but that should be all.

Here’s what they should look like:

lola rugula peppers for jelly

  1. Scrape the minced peppers out into a large saucepan.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar to the pan and stir well.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes.
  4. Add package of pectin, stir well with a fork or whisk and bring back to a boil.
  5. Make sure all of the pectin is fully incorporated and there aren’t any lumps.
  6. Boil 1 more minute.
  7. Be careful here to not let the mixture boil up and over the pan.
  8. You should actually start to see or feel with a spoon the mixture start to thicken and gel a bit.
  9. Quickly and carefully pack the hot mixture into clean canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace, wipe the rims of the jars clean, and seal with lids and bands.
  10. Let cool at room temperature. Typically, my lids will seal in about 35-45 minutes.
  11. When completely cool, refrigerate.

Tada! You’ve achieved simple no-canning-required hot pepper jelly. Easy, right?

The heat of this totally depends on you and the peppers you want to use. Want to make ghost chili or Carolina Reaper hot pepper jelly? You can, but you probably should only use one of them and not six, as my recipe calls for. You’ll need to taste your peppers first, to gauge the heat, although peppers often get hotter when cooked so only let this be your guide.

Serve with softened cream cheese (or goat or feta) and some crackers. People are going to love you for this, I promise. 🙂

lola rugula hot pepper jelly and cream cheese

As I mentioned earlier, this can also make a really nice little gift by simply putting a jar of it into a gift basket or bag, along with a brick of cream cheese or tub of feta, and some nice crackers.

I’ve read where people add food coloring to their hot pepper jelly and I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, look at the beautiful colors in this:

lola rugula hot pepper jelly preserves recipe

I also consider this a low-sugar hot pepper jelly recipe, as a lot of recipes call for twice the amount of sugar that I do. I think the sugar in this is more than sufficient and provides just enough sweet foil to the heat of the hot peppers.

The real beauty of this is that if you make some now and have some cream cheese and crackers on hand, you can whip up an easy appetizer in no time at all. I can’t tell you how nice this is when you’ve got people dropping by unexpectedly, not only at the holidays but all year round.

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

This is so much fun to serve to guests – most just aren’t’ expecting the heat but enjoy it, once they’ve tasted it. And you know if there’s anyone who loves an easy holiday appetizer recipe, it’s this girl. I’ve got enough things to do this time of year, so this just makes life a little bit easier.

I hope you try this and love it. Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Cucumber Salad

I’ve been posting some of my classic recipes recently, such as my potato salad with peas and my easy refrigerated pickled beets, so here’s another classic for you. This simple little salad has a number of different names – cucumber salad, refrigerator pickles. pickled cucumbers,  and the obvious, cucumbers in vinegar. No matter what you call it, it’s easy to make and a fabulous way to preserve your cucumber bounty, whether it’s from your garden or your over-ambitiousness at the farmer’s market. Because of the vinegar, this dish stores easily in your fridge for weeks and makes a perfect side to grilled ribs and chicken. They’re also great on burgers and hot dogs and nothing can be easier to make.

I prefer to make mine with rice vinegar, as it’s not as sharp as white vinegar, but white will certainly work.

lola rugula refrigerator pickles recipe

Cold Cucumber Salad

  • 2 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 6 medium)
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black  pepper
  • 2/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water

Remove the ends from cucumbers and discard. Slice the cucumbers thin – I prefer mine sliced over shaved with a mandolin, but you can try it both ways to see what you like – and place them in a large container with a lid. Thinly slice your onion and add to the cucumbers.

Sprinkle the cucumbers and onions with salt and toss well. Sprinkle with pepper, add vinegar and water and toss well again. Using the back of a large spoon or a potato masher, gently press everything down in the bowl.

Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days, stirring them up and pressing them back down a few times. The cucumbers and onions will release their moisture and create a brine as they mix with the salt, vinegar, and water.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

You now have quick pickles, basically, and they’re oh, so good!

If you have fresh dill on hand, it’s a delicious addition to this. Also, you can toss with fresh tomatoes before serving – just don’t add them ahead of time, as tomatoes will lose their flavor when refrigerated too long.

You can also use red onions here but be warned that they can turn your salad pink, especially the longer it sits.

Did you have this salad (or pickles) growing up? What did you call them? I’d love to hear about it! And now you know an easy way to preserve them when you’re wondering what to do with a lot of cucumbers.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Every year I grow beets and every year I still end up with more than we can eat.  I love them roasted on the grill or in the oven, or shredded and made into my beet and carrot slaw. I saute the greens up, similar to how I make quick and easy Swiss chard, and often just toss them raw – both the greens and julienned beets – into salads.

But, whenever they get the best of me and I find my crisper drawer overflowing, I preserve my beets by quick pickling them and sticking them back in the fridge.

lola rugula easy pickled beets recipe

This is such an easy way to preserve them without the trouble of canning them. We eat these as an accompaniment to knockwurst and sauerkraut (here’s my homemade sauerkraut recipe) or add some to our side salads. They also look great on an appetizer tray, served alongside other pickled vegetables.

Now, I know a lot of recipes call for all kinds of spices and such, which you’re welcome to add if that’s how you like yours. I just like mine clean and simple; bright and tart, without too much fuss.

lola rugula easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

This is a small batch recipe, as I’ve learned to just pickle them as they begin to overwhelm me. This recipe barely fills a quart Ball or canning jar, but it’s what works for me.

I grow a combination of Detroit Red and Rainbow beets and they all work great in this recipe. They mostly all end up red by the end of this, so use whatever beets you have on hand.

lola rugula pickled beets small batch recipe

easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. cleaned and peeled beets, diced or sliced
  • 1 cup sliced red onion (optional – omit if you hate onions)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Place beets in a medium saucepan and cover well with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook beets just until fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes. Drain and spoon into a quart Bell jar or glass dish with tight-fitting lid, layering in the raw onion slices as you go.

While the beets are still cooking, add vinegar, salt, and sugar to another saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour hot brine over beets and onions and seal with a lid. Let cool at room temperature. If you’re using a canning jar, you’ll likely hear the lid “pop” as the steam escapes and the lid seals tight.

Refrigerate until ready to eat. I’ve kept these for many weeks with no problems, as the combination of salt, vinegar, and refrigeration all help in preserving them.

lola rugula refrigerator pickled beets recipe

To me, these are a treat right out of the jar, when I’m looking for something quick to nibble on. Of course, when you’ve finished the beets, you can throw a couple of boiled eggs into the brine and make beautiful pickled beet eggs. Equally delicious in my opinion and also perfect for an appetizer tray.

If you try these, give me a shout and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you have another pickled veggie you enjoy, I’d love to hear about it.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

how to add spice to your life

Looking for ways to spice up your life? Try adding some hot chili oil to it. Making your own hot chili oil is very easy and it’s a great way to preserve your garden if you’ve got some dried hot peppers laying around. I love drying some of my hot peppers each year; it makes them easy to chop and use throughout the winter and they are far superior to most of the crushed red pepper flakes you can buy at the store.

One of the most prolific pepper plants I’ve grown is the Thai Chili Pepper; it grows at least a hundred of tiny hot peppers on one plant and, added bonus, makes a beautiful landscape plant. The beauty of making your own hot chili oil is that it doesn’t take a lot of peppers to add a lot of heat to your favorite dishes.

lola rugula how to make thai hot chili oil

Thai Peppers may be tiny but they pack a powerful punch. If you’ve ever wondered how to grow hot Thai Chili Peppers, just give them a well drained sunny spot in your garden and be sure to give them a consistent amount of water…peppers love water. I assure you that your Thai Peppers will reward you with more tiny bites of hotness than you know what to do with.

how to make hot chili oil lola rugula

hot thai chili oil recipe

  • 1 cup oil – I use organic sunflower or  organic canola oil
  • 1/4 cup dried Thai chili peppers, stems removed and roughly chopped

In a medium-size saucepan, heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.

Add chopped peppers, stir well and simmer for just a minute or two. You do NOT want them to start toasting; you want just enough heat to help the peppers release their oils, which is where their heat is.

Add the remaining oil and bring it all back to “just warm”. Remove from heat and stir well for a few minutes; this helps to dissipate the heat and also release more of the hot pepper oils into the mix. Pour into a heat-safe container or canning jar and let cool.

This keeps well for months and has a myriad of uses. Just a bit of it can be added to soups, sauces, and drizzled on chicken wings before cooking. You can also use a touch of it as a rub for pork, chicken, beef and seafood.

As with any hot peppers, you should be careful when handling them, as their oils can make your skin burn for hours after working with them.

lola rugula homemade hot chili oil recipe

So, are you ready to spice up your life a bit? Make some homemade hot chili oil and you’re well on your way.

You’ve got to keep things spicy, right? And what better way to warm up your winter than with my hot chili oil recipe. Enjoy and stay warm out there!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

hot cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone

In case you didn’t know it, I’m huge on Pinterest! Okay, well, my Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers recipe is huge, anyway. One of the things I miss most about living in Connecticut is being able to find both fresh and pickled cherry peppers at the store. Stuffing pickled cherry peppers with provolone and prosciutto is popular out east, but the ones I’ve come across here in Northern Illinois are all made with raw peppers, which is not very appetizing at all.

Not being able to find these beauties forced me to start growing, pickling and stuffing them myself. This isn’t really a bad thing, as it’s made me pretty damn popular at the holidays. It may sound like an odd combination but trust me that they’re delicious.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy  cherry peppers at your local store or market, I have just the appetizer for you! The pickling part is super easy, even when canning and processing them to put up. All you need is fresh cherry peppers white vinegar and water.how to can hot cherry peppers lola rugula

Pickling the peppers:

You don’t have to can these, though. You can pickle them and put them in the fridge, as long as you have the space. When I don’t process these for preserving, I call it “quick pickling”.

Prepare the peppers by washing them and cutting the stems off. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make a small slice into the pepper at the top of it, around the stem area. I like to do this to assure the hot juice is released from inside the peppers. Now you’re ready to pickle them.

  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 pounds hot cherry peppers (red or green both work!) washed. Using a sharp knife tip, make a small slit in the top (stem end) of each pepper

In al large saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. Add peppers, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and transfer peppers to a glass jar or container and then cover completely with vinegar/water brine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Here’s an extreme stuffed red cherry pepper close-up shot:

lola-rugula-hot-cherry-peppers-stuffed-with-provolone-and-prosciutto-recipe

Stuffing the peppers:

Be sure to reserve the pickling juice for storing and serving. To prepare the peppers for stuffing, use a sharp knife to cut the top off of the peppers. Then, using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them.

For the stuffing, take a chunk of provolone and cut it into cubes  The actual size of the cubes may need to vary, depending on the size of the peppers. Cut strips of prosciutto in half lengthwise, Wrap a cube of provolone with a piece of prosciutto and stuff the wrapped cube into a hollowed-out pepper. Set the stuffed pepper into a shallow dish and repeat until all of the peppers you have are stuffed.

Using the reserved pickling juice, fill the dish of peppers until the level is about half way up the peppers. Cover dish and refrigerate until ready to serve, preferably within a few hours.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing these, you’re missing out. It may sound like a strange combination  but the heat of the peppers, the tang of the vinegar, the smooth creaminess of the provolone and the salty earthiness of the prosciutto is a fabulous collaboration. I typically make these at the holidays and for get-togethers and they are always, always the first thing to disappear.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

trinidad scorpion salsa

We grew Trinidad Scorpion Peppers this year and they were pretty prolific, much more so than necessary, considering there are only so many of the second-hottest-peppers in the world you can eat

I grew Ghost Peppers a few years ago and can tell you the Scorpion plants are much smaller and faster-growing. As far as peppers go, the Scorpions have a slightly smoky flavor, whereas the Ghost  Peppers are much fruitier.

I made some Ghost Chili Salsa that year and it remains one of my most popular recipes. So what does one do to follow up an almost-famous recipe? Make an even hotter one.

lola-rugula-trinidad-scorpion-salsa-canning-recipe3

lola-rugula-trinidad-scorpion-salsa-canning-recipe4

lola-rugula-trinidad-scorpion-salsa-canning-recipe

trinidad scorpion salsa canning recipe

  • 5 cups blanched, peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped bell pepper (I used a mix of red and green)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 scorpion peppers, chopped

Makes 3 quarts

Sterilize canning jars, lids and bands; keep hot until ready to pack salsa.

In a large pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the salsa is still simmering and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

Pack hot salsa into sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace, wipe rims clean and seal with sterile lids and bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, making sure water is at a full boil before adding jars of salsa. Also, be sure that water covers the jars by at least an inch.

When processing time is up, carefully remove jars and place on counter. Leave undisturbed for at least 24 hours.

lola-rugula-trinidad-scorpion-salsa-canning-recipe-2

Just like my Ghost Chili salsa, this stuff is crazy hot, although this is honestly hotter. Great flavor and fun to give as gifts.

Another fun idea to do with Scorpion Peppers is to make my homemade hot sauce with them. Both the salsa and the hot sauce are great ways to preserve your peppers and they’re both delicious.