Dear Pepper Jelly, I Hate You.

Sweet, spicy and draped on a block of cream cheese like a duvet over the back of a couch.

Pepper jelly, I hope your mason jar was not properly sterilized and mold speckles your surface. You suck.

Mine looks nothing like this.

How can I be so bitter about such a sweet treat? I tried making it and failed. Even though I did make it to the jarring process, I am almost certain I have only succeeded in creating pepper syrup.

Here is a quick rundown of the highlights of my ineptitude.

1. “PEPPERS! PEPPERS! ONE EURO FOR A KILO!!” Before jamming my hand in my pocket to produce the necessary funds to buy a kilo of peppers, my brain kicked in and asked,”what in the world are we going to do with a kilo of yellow, hotter-than-hell peppers?” Good thing for me, pepper jelly is was one of my favorite things.

2. Paula Dean says to use four ounces of pectin for her recipe. Pectin in Dutch is pectine, though no one carries it. So I got two packs of gelatine, enough for two liters of liquid, shrugged and hoped for the best.

3. De-seeding hotter-than-hell peppers should be done with gloves. My fingers still burn.

4. Everyone tells you not to rub your eyes or go to the bathroom after handling hotter-than-hell peppers. They do not tell you that you can’t scratch your nose. My nose still burns. So does my forehead and cheek.

5. One and one half cups of chopped peppers does not equal one kilo of peppers. In fact, it’s nowhere close to a kilo.

6. Food processing one and one half cups of hotter-than-hell peppers should be done with adequate ventilation. Wrong. A gas mask would suffice. My lungs still burn.

7. Sterilizing the jars and lids involves too many liters of boiling water. So many things still burn.

8. It takes a long time to bring nine cups of sugar, two and a quarter cups of vinegar and the hotter-than-hell-pepper puree to a boil. Though, when it finally gets there, it does so violently. I was worried about the gelatine because I had two and a half liters of liquid in the pot, half a liter more than I had gelatine for. Then my mixture boiled over. One problem solved and one boiling-liter problem was born from the volcano of spicy syrup onto the stove top.

9. Gelatine comes in leaves, I suppose you are supposed to separate them before plopping them into the mixture. I didn’t. I must have been too busy worrying about the stove top.

10. Pouring the syrup into the sterilized, lined-up jars was surprisingly easy. After pouring, however, the jars are hot enough to burn you. And they will because they are jerks.

11. It is extremely difficult to clean a liter of hot syrup from the stove top. “Sticky” and”everywhere” are two opportune words for this unfortunate situation.

12. Washing your hands is not enough to keep you safe from yourself when you have handled hotter-than-hell peppers. You must also employ a clean towel that does not bear the oil from wiping your dirty hands on it previously. Now, my goddam eyes burn.

Do I still like pepper jelly? Perhaps I shall give it another chance. Though, I am quite certain I do not like pepper syrup.

[image courtesy of


  1. Oh noes! I’m impressed you went to such great lengths for the pepper jelly, but I’m sorry your first attempt was so painful (literally and figuratively). If it makes you feel any better, you made it seem amusing in retrospect. I just bought a few books on canning and preserving because I want to take advantage of all this beautiful summer produce, but I’m a little worried about how I will injure myself. Full-body protective gear?

    • Thanks for the support, Gill. I am sure you will be fine without full-body protection if you stick with apricots and raspberries. But, if you do do (haha doodoo) pepper jelly, heed my words of at least wearing gloves and using a pot big enough for twice the mixture you are boiling. Have fun and take pics!


  2. Pingback: The UN English Editors’ Exam: Final Thoughts « roughly translated

  3. Ha ha ha! Sorry, but it has been a while since I last laughed that much (and I’m at work :S).
    One suggestion, if you allow me, next time just grill them and save them in oil for later. Way easier!

    • Grilled peppers preserved in oil? And then I can use these peppers for pepper jelly? Hrm…could be easier in terms of mess but I would be adding an extra step. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and I hope I didn’t get you in trouble at work!


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