Tie green ribbon around pretty red pepper jelly
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 09:06
NORTH BALTIMORE - While the country seems to be slowly but surely moving out of its long economic slump, most of us are still being careful with the pennies - and the dollar bills - when it comes to Christmas shopping.
|Pat Haynes with her jalapeno pepper jelly platter with cream cheese, triscuits, monterey jack cheese and cracker sausage. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
A time-tested solution to that dilemma is homemade gifts.
Pat Haynes has a head start on most of us, because all she has to do is tie a pretty gold or green ribbon around a jar of her popular "Aunt Pat's" Jalapeno Pepper Jelly and she's got the perfect Christmas gift for a neighbor, teacher, or friend.
"Cooking has just always been a natural for me, and whenever times get tough you just tend to pull from your own natural resources."
Back in 2007, "when the recession started, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I had a big garage sale. We just sold whatever we could come up with - crafts, flea market, food items."
Haynes decided to make jellies, jams, and chicken noodle soup for that huge garage sale. The event turned out to be the forerunner for a business called the Country Cupboard that started up in Haynes' house and is now located at 122 N. Main St. in North Baltimore.
It's run by Haynes' brother and sister-in-law, Mary Ward.
Next door at 124 N. Main, and sharing the same building, is The Ice Cream Shop which Haynes and her husband run.
"I started making the jelly for my husband's business," Haynes explained, and it's now available to the public alongside the ice cream.
A Jerry City native and 1981 graduate of Elmwood High School, Haynes has been associated with food in one way or another throughout her working life.
She was assistant manager at the former L&K Restaurant in North Baltimore for a few years and has since put in 20-years plus at what is popularly known as "the Cookie Factory" at McComb, officially called Hearthside Food Solutions.
"After work, three or four nights a week, I take care of The Ice Cream Shop with my husband."
Haynes also has a long history involving canning.
"My mom always canned when my sister and I were young. I grew up around it and enjoyed it," she said. "There comes a time in an adult's life when you have to make a living, so I sold what I was best at."
Her most popular jellies and jams are black raspberry, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb and the jalapeno pepper jelly.
"I sell quite a bit of pepper jelly at work. I take little samples" of the beautiful ruby red jelly to the cookie factory "and I tell you, those girls come after it."
She describes the jalapeno pepper version as "a sweet and spicy jelly."
Most people either have heard of it before and yes they like it and yes they'll buy it, or they scratch their heads" and wonder what a jalapeno pepper jelly could possibly taste like.
But don't be afraid of the name. The degree of heat is entirely under the control of the jelly maker.
While the recipe calls for a total of 4 cups of ground peppers, there's no law requiring one to stick to the suggested combination of 10 jalapenos, three green bell peppers and one red bell pepper.
"If you want it a little hotter then add more jalapenos," said Haynes. "If less hot, maybe an extra bell pepper. Just make sure it all adds up to four cups total."
The jelly is especially tasty on crackers and combined with cheese or cream spreads, where the contrast of salt with sweet and spice is very effective.
Her own favorite pairing is with a colby or Monterey jack cheese.
She also likes it on cheeseburgers - "right on the bun, as a condiment."
Or try her adult son's ingenious invention: "He mixes it in right with the meat mixture to make hamburgers. You can tell there's sugar there, but mostly it brings out the moisture in the hamburger."
For those who enjoy canning, this jelly will be easy to make.
For those who don't can but are intrigued and want to try jalapeno pepper jelly, it is currently available at the Ice Cream Shop for $3 a jar. Haynes says people can call her at 419-257-2406 or stop by in person.
'Aunt Pat's' jalapeno pepper jelly
4 c. peppers, ground (10 jalapenos, 3 green bell peppers, 1 red bell pepper*)
1 c. cider vinegar
5 c. sugar
1 box of sure-jel
1/2 tsp. margarine
Chop peppers and measure to make 4 cups. Place peppers in sauce pan. Add vinegar, sure-jel and margarine. Bring to a full boil. Quickly stir in sugar. Bring back to a full rolling boil and time for 1 minute. Ladle hot jelly into prepared jelly jars. Invert jars for 5 minutes, and then return to upright position. Jelly may take up to a week to "set".
* To add heat use more jalapenos; to subtract heat increase number of bell peppers - remaining with 4 cups total.