Is there any color more autumnal than that of aging maple leaves? Golden with lines and flecks of red, brown, and green, it’s a color combination that I wish were seen more often in the culinary world. Sure, pumpkin soups, apple pies, chilis, and the other foods of the season are delicious, but are they much to look at? Not quite.
But I think I have stumbled upon something that will single-handedly make up for the drab appearances of early fall foods. It’s called habanero gold, and it’s as beautiful as it sounds, and even more tasty. It makes great use of the late summer/early autumn pepper bounty, and is among the best host gifts I have ever concocted. It’s a jelly with an apricot base that packs quite a spicy punch, and leaves you coming back for spoon after spoon. I don’t think I have ever brought this to a gathering and not seen the whole thing devoured before I left a few hours later.
Here are some helpful tips not to be skipped before you undertake this recipe. Wear gloves. I cannot stress this enough. Let me say it differently. Wear gloves. Unless you want to be whimpering in pain after slicing, dicing, and seeding all of the peppers, contemplating whether a trip to the emergency room is worth the judgement that will surely be passed on you by the medical staff for doing something so stupid as burning yourself with peppers. In that case, go for it, do this with bare hands. I dare you. But really, don’t.
You’ll also notice that the onion and pepper particles in the jelly tend to float to the top of the jar. There’s no real way to get around this, so just make sure to give the jelly a good stir before you serve it. It’s so gorgeous, I’m sure no one will judge you for it (though I won’t say the same for your bandaged hands–I warned you).
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes three 8 ounce jars
1/3 cup dried apricot, finely chopped
¾ cup white vinegar
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup habanero and Serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups sugar
1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid pectin
Place the apricots in a bowl and cover with the vinegar. Cover the bowl and let sit overnight (or for at least 4 hours).
Place the apricots and vinegar, onion, peppers, and sugar in a large stainless steel pot. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the pectin, and let boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and skim off any foam.
Quickly place in jars. If preserving, leave ¼ inch of headspace, wipe the rim, and screw on the lids to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, remove immediately, and let cool, untouched for 24 hours.