This preserved chilies are not a common spice around Romania, but we do have a tradition in combining sweet with savoury, mostly in the regions of Ardeal and Banat, and I was born in the former.
Sugar preserve was used before the 4th century CE and as Harold McGee says in his book On food and cooking, the earliest sugar preserves were probably fruit pieces immersed in syrupy honey or in the boiled-down juice of wine grapes. I can only imagine how the taste of honey or grape juice would combine with the fruits. But it was a venerable, helpful technique for preserving.
It gained popularity later on, though, when sugar had become cheap enough and fruit could keep their flavours.
It became even more poplar thanks to its aesthetics - which I find very interesting. In the 16th century, Nostradamus described a quince jelly which had a color that was so diaphanous that it resembled an oriental ruby.
This chili jam is impressive both in colour and in taste as well. When I took the first spoonful and placed it on to the plate to do the settle test, it immediately awoke all my senses. The red was bright and luscious and I took a closer view just to become mesmerised.
We don't use high pectin sugar, just normal sugar and never feel the need to. Sugar does a great job as it is, and with the right technique, any jam can settle well.
Not all my family members are spicy food fans, so I chose to combine the chilies with sweet kapia peppers for a medium heat spice. Before washing and mincing, I carefully check every chili and pepper so that they are all healthy.
The seeds keeps a lot of flavour and spiciness too, so I kept the seeds of the chillies, but threw away the seeds from the kapia (which were a lot) so I would end up with a nice proportion of pulp and seeds.
Keep in mind that the blender will blend the seeds too, so that's not gonna be a happy scenario because it will diminish the color and also the seeds will appear like some unknown small white pieces disturbing the beautiful red. You can skip the seeds though, or take them out when blending and only adding them at the end when the pulp is blended.
So the meat grinder is the best choice : it keeps the seeds intact but finely grinds the pulp, so I recommend using this one. I did 3 kilos of mixed peppers and I ended up with 10 jars of 250-300 g. The proportion of sugar and vinegar for this recipe is for 1 kilo of mixed peppers, so you can tailor your own recipe when making the jam.
How to use it
Even though it is an incredible addition to any dairy and meat dish, the chili jam goes great in plant-based foods as well: try in sauerkraut and tofu sandwiches, mixed in your favourite vinaigrette instead of the usual sweetener, add on salty baked goods, potato dishes, quiches or veggie pies, nuts and seeds pates, pair it with any dips like hummus, zucchini and garlic dip, tapenade and the list could go on.
My favourite way to use it? On a baked and open sweet potato, with sea salt, loads of tahini and chili jam on top. So. Addictive.
Sweet red kapia and chili pepper jam
Vegan, Plant-based, Gluten-free
Makes 4x 300g jars
Total time: around 3h
600 g red sweet kapia peppers
400 g red hot chili
1 L vinegar
700 g white cane sugar
1. Wash the peppers in 2-3 waters.
2. Take out the tops and coarsely chop them. If using a meat grinder, keep the chili seeds, if using a blender, remove the seeds and add them after step 3.
3. Grind / blend peppers.
4. In a big enough pot, add the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.
5. Add the minced peppers and boil at medium heat for about 1-2 hours or until the settle plate test is ready.
6. Pour in sterilised jars (see here how to sterilize your jars and lids). You can pour the jam while it's hot or after it has cooled down. Jams preserve well anyway you choose to do it.
7. Keep in pantry for 1 year, if it lasts that much :)
Have you ever tried chili jam? Let me know what you think about it!