Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kinky Nectarine Habanero Jam

When my 16 month old son asked for a taste of this jam, we told him no. "It's hot," we said. But he insisted. We gave him a tiny taste, and he had a big reaction. He shook his head like a dog, beat his little fists on Daddy's chest, then stuck his hands in his mouth. And then emphatically asked for more.

I've been perfecting this recipe for a month. I hope you'll like it. This jam is very sweet, a little tart, and very hot. The sugar and the capsaicin send competing messages to your brain: "Pleasure!" "Pain!" and it is rather enticing. This jam is kinky! The sweet pleasure of fruit preserves yields to the hot pain of habanero... This jam will keep you warm on a cold winter's night.


It is good on toast with cheese or butter. I think it will make a damn fine cocktail with bourbon or tequila. And it is great tossed into a fruity salsa and served on grilled steak or shrimp tacos. 


Some notes on working with hot peppers:
Wear gloves. Seriously.
Most of the intense heat is in the membranes and seeds of the pepper. When mincing the peppers, remove and reserve the seeds and membranes. You can add them toward the end of cooking time when you're adjusting the heat level. 
Adjust the heat and sweetness separately. Sugar will tame the heat, so if you want to increase the heat, do that first. Then add more sugar if necessary.

If you are unfamiliar with water bath canning, read up here. 



Kinky Nectarine Habanero Jam
makes about 6 cups

3lbs nectarines (about 8 cups chopped, with skins on)
2-3 cups sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2-4 tablespoons minced habanero (reserve the membranes and seeds)

The night before you plan to can, chop the nectarines and toss with 2 cups sugar in a bowl. Cover and allow to macerate in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, put your water bath on to boil and sterilize the jars. Warm the lids and rings in a separate pot of water.

Meanwhile, pour the nectarine-sugar mixture into a large saute pan and heat on medium until boiling. Stir frequently. When the fruit has softened, after 15 minutes or so, add the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of minced habanero. Continue to cook 20-30 minutes until the jam has thickened. Mash the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon. Or, if you prefer a smoother texture, puree some or all of the jam with an immersion blender or food processor.

Taste the jam and adjust. If you want more heat, add more minced habanero and/or some of the seeds and membranes. If it's too hot, add sugar to tame the heat.

Test for doneness. I like the cold plate test. 

Fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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