Summer in subtropical Australia can be a disheartening time in the suburban garden. European vegetables run to seed before maturing, go mouldy in the humidity or burn to a brown leathery crisp after a day in the sun. Tropical fruits, corn, eggplant and chillis are the exceptions that provide the abundance temperate gardeners associate with autumn.
Clean and seal the jars while the jam is hot
The problem with chillis, though, is that you can’t make a meal of them. They are just too strong.
Here is a chilli jam that is mild enough for most people to heap on a cheese sandwich. Those who like it stronger can simply leave the seeds in. (See the sidebar To Seed or Not to Seed)
The basic recipe was developed by combining the appropriate features from 15 different recipes at https://chasingchilli.com.au/chilli-jam-recipes-you-need-to-make/
Sweet peppers provide some bulk of the right colour (they were much, much cheaper than red capsicums at my local shop the day I made the jam) and carrots provide the pectin and body. I originally kept all the vegetable strips quite long in an attempt to create an interesting presentation but, when I saw how hard it was going to be to wrangle into the bottles, I smashed it up in the saucepan with the stick blender.
Remove the seeds to reduce the “heat” of the final jam
500g of hot chillis
500g-1kg of sweet peppers (or capsicums – some people use tomatoes)
1kg of white sugar
1 litre of vinegar (I used kambucha vinegar that I had made accidentally by overbrewing my kambucha)
Find enough jars to hold the jam. Allow for a total of about 2 litres for the ingredients listed here.
Slice and seed the peppers and the chillis (Removing seeds as desired – see discussion below)
Grate the carrots
Put the vegetables, sugar and vinegar into a large saucepan
Put over low heat until it comes to the boil.
Chilli jam ingredients ready to cook
Turn the oven on low heat
While the jam is coming to the boil, wash the jars and place in the oven to warm and dry.
When the jam starts boiling, turn it down as low as possible to keep simmering and stir and test regularly.
Test by dribbling jam on cold plates and waiting until cool.
When the jam on the cold plate forms a skin and is sticky, turn off the jam, take the jars out of the oven and place on a clean cloth.
Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars
Clean the outside of the jars
Place lids (or seals) onto the jars while the jam is still hot.
Allow to cool for 24 hours before moving.
To Seed or Not to Seed?
The jam pictured here has the vast bulk of the chilli seeds removed. This makes it much much milder as the seed and the flesh surrounding the seeds contains most of the spice.
I posted the steps of the recipe on facebook as I prepared the jam and many people commented that they do not remove the seeds. “Leave them in!” “That’s where all the taste is” “My weapons grade sambal uleck retains everything but the stems”
Regardless of your preference in terms of spice, remember that handling the seeds and the flesh will cause your hands, and anything you touch, to feel like it is burning. I spent one night writhing in agony under a pillow pressed hard against my eyes convinced that I would never see again just because I washed my face with my hands while cleaning up after chopping chillis a couple of years ago.
One comment on facebook assures me that chilli does not actually burn but only creates the painful sensation of burning. That is good news but most people would prefer to take the precautions and avoid the pain. I do not use gloves, but I am very careful not to touch myself while handling chillis and to wash up regularly with soap and water and lots of rinsing. 18 hours after making the jam my hands still feel hot and swollen.