Yellows - Bob Dunn Photography
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When Life Gives You LemonsI’ve had to pick more lemons than I can immediately use, because the tree is so full of fruit that many of the branches were bent all the way to the ground. So many lemons. Yesterday I preserved my first jarful of the season – cut about six of the big Meyer lemons into quarters, almost, leaving them attached at one end, then pour salt inside each, then press them down into the jar, then fill to the top with juice from another two or three lemons. After a couple of weeks in a dark corner on the counter, I’ll refrigerate them and they’ll be ready to use. It’s the rind you’re preserving. And you can mince it up and add it to any dish for a great citrus zing.

Then there are these Aji Limon pepper plants that won’t stop producing. The chilies are yellow and narrow and about an inch and a half long. And pretty hot, with a fruity aftertaste some describe as lemony. I’ve been harvesting a *lot* of them. After making a nice jar of hot sauce and a lot of salsa, I still seemed to have as many as when I started.

As luck would have it, I learned from the Google box that you can combine these peppers with Meyer lemons and make some damn fine hot pepper jelly. So I did:

Aji Lemon Jelly

Hot Pepper HarvestIngredients:
→ Two bell peppers or three sweet frying peppers, finely chopped (I used Argentina heirloom Aconcagua peppers)
→ A dozen Aji Limon peppers, seeds and membranes removed, minced (and you might want to wear kitchen gloves while handling these bad boys, or else be very careful who and what you touch with your hot-pepper fingers)
→ Juice of three lemons, or 1.5 cups of juice (if you don’t have that much juice, you can add white vinegar to get the full 1.5 cups)
→ Zest of two lemons
→ 6.5 cups of sugar
→ 1 tsp. of butter
→ I packet of standard fruit pectin
→ 7-9 glass one-pint canning jars, with lid rings and tops

Wash the jars and lids. Simmer the jars in a canner or large pot of hot water, and put the lid rings and tops in a smaller pan of simmering water.

Stir the sweet and hot peppers, the lemon zest and the juice into a large pan and turn the heat on high. Stir the mixture and allow it to reach a full rolling boil. Add the butter to keep the foaming down.

Stir in the pouch of pectin, wait for the ingredients to reach a full rolling boil again and allow it to boil for exactly one more minute, then remove from heat.

Skim off any foam and then ladle the hot jelly into the pint jars, filling them to within an eighth of an inch of the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe any excess jelly off of the jar, then put a top on the jar and screw the lid ring on snugly. Once all the jars are full, put them back into the canner or large pot, make sure the water is deep enough that they are at least an inch under the surface, and then bring to a gentle boil. Boil the jars for 10 minutes, and you’re done.

Use tongs to lift the jars out of the hot water and onto a rack or cutting board. Within a minute or less, you should hear a clicking sound come from each jar as the tops seal. At this point the jelly may appear to be very runny, but as it cools off in the jars, the pectin should cause it to thicken nicely.

My first batch gave me about 6 and a half pints of jelly. I sealed up and saved six jars and used the extra half-pint for immediate taste-testing. Wonderful, hot and sweet, and with a pretty good color, too.

There’s no reason you couldn’t use the same recipe with serranos or other similar-sized hot chilies. However, if you have habaneros, try using just 3-4 peppers, not a dozen, or you might hurt yourself and your breakfast guests.

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