Chilli Jelly

This year has been great fo my chilli harvest, and in my never ending quest for interesting ways of preserving them, I fancied trying a jam or jelly.  This recipe uses some of my cooking apples to create the basis for the jelly itself.  Cooking apples tend to contain an abundance of pectin which, along with sugar and acid, is essential for the jelly to set.  If you can use crab apples, so much the better.  If picking your own apples, the pectin levels are apparently best when the apples are very slightly under-ripe.

My jelly didn’t set very well and I had to resort to using some liquid pectin to rescue it.  If you run in to the same problems, see my ‘How to rescue unset jelly’ tip at the end!

Makes approx 3 * 16 oz jars of jelly


  • 1.25 kg Cooking Apples
  • 500 ml Cider or White Wine Vinegar
  • 500 ml Water
  • 10-20 Cayenne Chilli Peppers, finely chopped (keep the seeds & pith for a hotter effect)
  • White Granulated Sugar (approx 800g per litre of strained juice)


  • Coarsely chop up the apples and remove any bad bits or creepy crawlies.  Don’t peel or remove the core as this contains a large proportion of the pectin
  • In a large pan add the apples, water, vinegar and about 3/4 of the chopped chilli
  • Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • After this time, the mixture should have formed a pulp.  This needs to be carefully strained through a jelly bag or a sheet of muslin.  My preferred method is the following:- Line a sieve or colander with a sheet of muslin and place over a large bowl, ensuring any excess fabric hangs outside the bowl.  Pour the apple mixture into the muslin then bring the corners together and tie.  Suspend the muslin from a hook so that the liquid drips through the sieve and into the bowl
  • If you want clear jelly, it is important not to force the juice through.  Let it run through naturally.  It may take several hours to complete, so be patient
  • After you have enough juice, measure this to establish exactly how much you’ve got
  • Pour the juice into a pan and add 800 g of sugar for every litre of juice.  Gradually bring the pan up to the boil and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves.  This should take around 10 minutes or so, during which time the liquid will both start to thicken slightly and start to clear
  • After 10 minutes add the remaining chilli and remove from the heat
  • Allow to cool slightly and pour into sterilized jam jars

How to Rescue Unset Jelly

Jelly didn’t set properly?  Neither did mine the first time.  There are a number of possible reasons for this, associated with cooking times, temperatures, ratios of ingredients, etc, One thing to be aware of is that, apparently some jellies may take weeks to set properly, but you should be able to tell within a day or two as to whether you have a problem. At the end of the day you have a choice to make:

  • Throw it all away and start again
  • Live with it – some non-jellies make great fruit sauces.  Everybody likes a good rebranding exercise…
  • Fix it

The easiest way to rescue your unset jelly is to go out and buy a bottle of liquid pectin, some lemon juice and sugar and tackle the problem a jar at a time.  I use Certo liquid pectin, and this is my method:

  • In a small pan, add 1 tbsp Pectin, 1 tbsp Sugar and 1/2 tbsp Lemon Juice.  Gently bring to the boil then through in 1 jar of unset jelly
  • Bring back up to a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes max, then remove from heat
  • Transfer into a new sterilized jar and seal
  • You should be able to tell from the bottom of the pan whether this has worked, as you should be left with a very stick residue.  If not, repeat with extra pectin, sugar and lemon juice until you know the right proportion of pectin to jelly
  • Repeat the process with the remaining jars

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