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Chilli Jam

Chillies and lemons are both glut crops – if you have any, you have too many! For this recipe though, the challenge is that you only have too many of both at the very end of the chilli season and the very beginning of the lemon season.  It’s a moment to pounce on.

The trick with making chilli jam is that chillies don’t have enough pectin to set on their own. Commercial chilli sauce is thickened with gum, but this one uses lemon juice and pulp for its pectin, and also for its flavour. It makes a nice strong chilli jam (or sauce) with a hot-tart-sweet-salty balance. It’s great with cheese on crackers, or with very herby salmon patties, or in salad dressings, or  indeed anywhere you are used to using sweet chilli sauce.

The Recipe

First, put your jars in a pressure cooker or a large pot of water on the stove to sterilize them by boiling for 10 minutes or pressure cooking for 5.

De-seed a big basket of chillies – half a kilo of de-seeded chillies will make about 3 medium jars of chilli jam. Hot chillies will (duh!) give you hot chilli jam – I like a mixture of hot and mild chillies, about half and half. Use gloves (or really remember not to rub your eyes for hours afterwards!)

For each half kilo (500 gm) of de-seeded chillies, add one cup water, one cup of vinegar, three quarters of a cup of lemon juice, a good dessertspoon of grated lemon rind, a marble-sized knob of fresh ginger, grated, two or three garlic cloves chopped fine, and a half teaspoon of salt. When you juice the lemons, remove the seeds then scrape the pulp out of the juicer as well – it has lots of pectin and will help your jam set.

Find your largest stainless steel or enamel pot – the jam has a risk of boiling over in too small a pot. Boil this mixture for 10 minutes or so, until the chillies soften, then blend the mixture. (Careful of splashes – it really hurts if it gets in your eyes!) For each cup of chilli blend, add a cup of sugar. (We’re making jam here – it doesn’t have to be healthy). I like the slight molasses-y flavour of raw sugar, but it makes a darker coloured jam.

Cook stirring occasionally until it reaches setting point – the point at which a teaspoonful on a cold plate sets jam-like. This will take around half an hour, depending on the pectin level in your lemons.  Bottle in your sterile bottles.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • dixiebelle March 16, 2011, 6:33 pm

    Great recipe! I have just made some Chilli Jam similar to this, but sadly I didn’t have the ginger on hand.

  • Elaine coolowl March 20, 2012, 10:07 pm

    There’s probably a Chilli Jam recipe special to every jam maker! Anyway mine is a combo of some past recipes and the contents list on a particularly delicious jar made by a local organic grower.

    The bulk is Plums, Peaches and Nectarines with some Onions. I added some Lemon juice and some rather ancient ‘Jamsetta’. Once the fruit was soft I added sugar to taste – it is quite sweet with all that fruit. The amount of Chillies needed depends on the heat of the Chillies and personal taste. They must be de-seeded unless you want to remove the lining from your mouth 😉 Oh and *use gloves*! It took hours and many applications of ice for the burning to leave my hands [klutz!].

    Worth it though, it truly is *delicious* and ekeing it out until next February is quite a challenge.

  • Peggy March 27, 2013, 7:55 am

    I made this last week and it turned out well. The texture was a lovely, tender set with no need for any added Jamsetta or other pectin.

    ALL my early lemons were storm damaged, so it would have been difficult to grate the rind. I thinly pared the unmarked areas of zest and chopped it. After cutting off all the white pith and cutting away any damaged areas I sectioned the lemons, cutting between the membranes (easier with lemons than with oranges where the flesh adheres strongly to the membrane). The chopped zest and pieces of flesh went into a mini food processor; a stick blender would also have worked. Guesstimating the extra volume from the pulp, I used one cup instead of 3/4 of juice + pulp. While it was an idea born of necessity, I’ll definitely do it this way again; much easier on the hands than juicing, especially for large batches!

    For my tastes, as a stand alone condiment I would increase the garlic and ginger. However, the subtle seasonings are perfect for using the jam as an ingredient in cooking, ang a great way to preserve the excesses of an even reasonably successful chilli bush. Thank you for sharing the recipe 🙂

  • Linda March 27, 2013, 8:00 am

    Hi Peggy, your lemons are earlier than mine – I have Eureka but the lemon glut of the bush lemons is still a few months off. I’m glad you like the recipe. It’s one of my staples.

  • GladysH April 8, 2013, 8:36 pm

    A really great recipe, thanks. Beatifully red and bright. I had 1.2 kg of chilis and the recipe’s proportions multiplied perfectly.

  • GladysH January 14, 2014, 8:25 am

    This is the second year I have used this recipe and it’s fabulous. I have HEAPS of chillies – 2kg at a time, and this recipe is easily able to cater for any amount.
    Thanks for providing it.

  • Monique May 10, 2014, 7:10 am

    Can I use raw honey instead of sugar in this recipe? Thank you

  • Linda May 10, 2014, 9:22 am

    Hi Monique, it won’t work with honey. The jam-i-ness, as well as the safe preserving, comes from the sugar reacting with the pectin in the lemon juice and rind when boiled. The sugar draws out all the moisture out of the chilis which stops them being able to be colonised with bacteria. I’ve heard of people though making chili infused honey. I’ve never tried it myself, but it would be interesting to give it a go. But it would be for eating fresh – honey isn’t a reliable protection against bacteria growing in food.

  • Caitlin April 24, 2017, 1:36 am

    Thanks for the super easy recipe! Word of warning, don’t be a silly billy like me, wear gloves! Fingers burned all night, nothing helped, not even Google.

  • Susan in Portugal October 10, 2018, 6:37 am

    Linda … its been a while since you posted this recipe, but with the power of Pinterest I have found your recipe ! 😉 I will be picking my chillies soon and I will be having a go at your recipe … although the idea of deseeding all those chillies is pretty daunting! We love really spicy things … so I am being tempted to leave them in! Your bottles look to have seeds in them … so did you leave them all in … or just some ??

  • Linda October 10, 2018, 11:06 am

    Hi Susan, I take the seeds out, but not too diligently. I like my chili jam not too hot, and my Bishop’s Crown chilis with seeds in are hot! My partner though is a chili fiend. He will happily enjoy it with the seeds in. It makes no difference to the setting, just to the heat. So it depends on your taste for spicy food and the spiciness of the chilis.

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