Habanero Honey Pepper Jam, You Can Take the Heat

Some like it hot. From time to time, I linger on the side of scorching. It makes me feel alive. I prefer an extra glug of hot sauce in a cold michelada. And a jar of chili flakes could probably be fashioned at my hip in a red pepper holster when I’m in the kitchen.

This is not to say spicy mistakes haven’t been made. I’ve even been a hot mess on occasion. But life lessons have been learned along the way. (And relearned.)

Lesson one: If someone—particularly an ex-boyfriend—dares you to do a shot of habanero hot sauce after drinking a cluster of margaritas, do not oblige. And do not oblige twice.

Lesson two: If a waitress warns you that the “Armageddon wings” you’ve ordered are so hot that she can’t be in the kitchen while they are being prepared, don’t be a blockhead and eat them. Especially if they come with a menu disclaimer.

It does not matter that you are in a tiny mountain town in the Adirondacks: they’ll be the hottest thing you have ever put in your mouth. In fact, being in a remote location (where cell phones don’t even work) also means there are no hospitals in proximity should you need one, you idiot. And you might.

Best case scenario: the wings will haunt you for days, sometimes multiple times per day, if you get my drift. And for god’s sake woman, don’t order them again to make sure they are as hot as you remember.

In contrast, this spicy sweet pepper jam will not cause a four-alarm fire. While it has some sneaky underlying heat, the sweetness from the honey and orange peppers help to tame its intensity. I’m well aware of the reputation I’ve just cast, but believe me when I say this jam is not as hot as it sounds. It’s also brightened with the addition of vinegar. I imagine a little squeeze of lemon wouldn’t hurt a bit, either.

You’ve probably noticed there is also a big, bright blossom perched on top of the glaze of orange jam. I recently bought a nasturtium plant at the farmers’ market solely for its fiery orange flowers. (Sometimes I’m shallow.) I had grand plans to add a few blossoms into the jam, but they were immediately swallowed whole, in one syrupy stir, never to be seen again.

Instead the blossoms work much better on top, with the sweet jam and salty feta cheese underneath. This lets nasturtiums shine as nature intended, as they are mildly peppery themselves. Arugula would probably work equally as well in this supporting roll.

The jam would also be complimented by a number of soft cheeses. I haven’t tried cream cheese, but that seems to be the classic pairing consensus from the online pepper jam chatter. A number of people have also recommended that spicy pepper jam serves as a nice stand-in for the traditional fruit spread in peanut butter and jelly sandwich or as a topping for shrimp. Let’s just say I’m game.

After all, I have a whole jar to myself. Which I will not consume in one sitting. No matter how much you dare me.

Habanero Honey Pepper Jam

4 orange bell peppers, cut into thin strips
3-4 habanero peppers, seeded
3/4 cup vinegar
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups chardonnay (or water)
Salt to taste
3/4 cup green apple pectin (recipe here)

Combine the first 6 ingredients with a pinch or two of salt in a medium sauce pan on medium to medium high heat, stirring occasionally and watching that the mixture doesn't burn. Cook for about 1 hour, or until peppers soften. (If the mixture reduces too quickly add a little more wine or simply a little water, the mixture should never become extremely syrupy.)

Once the peppers are fully cooked and have softened, strain them out, but reserve them as you'll eventually be adding them back in. (Before straining out the peppers, you may also want to taste the jam and add a little more salt, sugar, or vinegar depending on your preference. I wanted a nearly equal balance of acid and sweetness so the proportions above worked for me.) Add the pectin to the liquid and continue to cook the mixture for 15 minutes. After about 15 minutes, add back the peppers and cook until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes more.

You will see the consistency of the jam if you stick it on a plate in the freezer for a few minutes; it should be done when it's no longer extremely runny on the plate.

The jam will keep quite well in a jar in the fridge for weeks.

Makes about 2 cups.

-If you, like me, are a chronic over-reducer you may find that you've cooked your jam so long that it resembles hardened jam caramel once it has cooled. If this happens, heat it in the microwave until it becomes semi-edible again and then put it into a sauce pan with a little water and cook it for a few more minutes until it's not quite as syrupy as last time. If needed, repeat.

-Add 4 habaneros if you like a little more heat and 3 if you like a little less, but don't forget to remove the seeds before adding the peppers to the jam or you probably won't like me very much. Also don't rub your eyes, or any other sensitive areas, after you've handled the habaneros.

-I removed the peppers for a bit because I wasn't sure if they were going to turn to mush. You could always chance it and just leave them in.

-I used the chardonnay instead of water because I needed to use it up.

-You may also be able to use store bought pectin, but I had some leftover from the fall in my freezer.


  1. Oh man - love the combination of flavors in this jam. Wish I could slather some on a slice of toast right now.

  2. I think you were spot on with the feta. And maybe slather the jam on top of some queso fresco, or perhaps a ricotta salata. But I'm not completely sold on the cream cheese. Excuse me while I investigate further.

  3. sounds interesting! I may have to try this.

  4. This looks so wonderful.The jam and the whole picture!

  5. This sounds delicious. I am imagining having it on cheese toast

  6. This sounds fabulous! We should definitely dine out together because I adore spicy food!

  7. Great post.

    Ive never heard of anything quite like this.

    Big thumbs up.

  8. I so want to try this. It looks great and I'll probably have fun with a few people with it.

  9. This sounds excellent and versatile. I'd like to try it on chicken or pork too!

  10. Sounds like you might be in the camp of "it's not hot enough until I'm sweating" (which is the same camp my husband is in). I will make something spicy and he will add red pepper flakes without even tasting it. :sigh:

  11. i've been burned before, literally, by those stinkin' contests. while i'm done with those, i'm never done with sweet and spicy spreads, and this one looks lovely!

  12. I would eat this right out of the jar. Yum!!

  13. What a creative jam, sounds delicious!

  14. This stuff is seriously addictive with cream cheese, and I have never thought about making it for myself, thanks for the recipe.

  15. Great post! Can't wait to try the jam! Like you, I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'll probably go for 4 habaneros.

    Those wings sounds intriguing...