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Pepper jelly is exactly what it sounds like: jelly made out of any variety of the fruit known as peppers. Because of the wide variety of flavors found in the Capsicum genus, Solanaceae family, the scientific classification for peppers, this jelly can be found to suit many different tastes. It may be hot, sweet, savory, or a combination of these flavors. Some popular peppers used to make jelly are green and red bell peppers, jalapenos, and habaneros. Some varieties may be made with a few different types of pepper.
In the context of pepper jelly, jelly refers to a type of jam, or fruit preserve, that is clear and uniform in color and consistency. It is distinguished from other types of jam that may include small seeds or pieces of fruit. Jelly, like other jams, is thickened with pectin, a gel-like substance that naturally occurs in fruit. Recipes often include sugar as well as pectin, and additional flavors may come from vinegar, wine, liqueur, or other fruits.
As you may expect, pepper jelly has different culinary uses from most other types of jelly. As its flavor can be intense, it is usually eaten in much smaller amounts than fruitier jellies like strawberry or grape. The jelly can be used in hors d'oeuvres, spread on crackers with cream cheese or Brie for example. It can also be used as a spread on sandwiches, although it is typically not the main ingredient of a sandwich in the way that a sweeter jelly might be. Pepper jelly can be melted and poured over a meat entree, incorporated in dishes like jambalaya, or used as a condiment for meat or fish.
A wide range of pepper jellies can be purchased in specialty shops or online. For the more adventurous, recipes are also easy to find. Once a chef has mastered one of these, he can experiment with ingredients to create his own signature version.
Ohhhh! I thought this only referred to black pepper jelly. I hadn't even thought of jalapeno pepper jelly or red bell pepper jelly. I have to say it sounds a little different, but I'll have to give it a shot!