small navel or Valencia orange
medium red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
medium-hot, fruity red chiles, such as Fresnos or red jalapeños*
Note: if you can only find green jalapeños, that's okay, too—just remember that they're a bit spicier than their red counterparts.*Show Note
apple cider vinegar
Whipped ricotta, made by pulsing whole-milk ricotta in a food processor until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes
Freshly ground black pepper and/or flaky salt
Unlike the classic ’90s cocktail-party formula, which requires you to track down powdered pectin at the grocery store, this pepper jelly has a whole blended orange in it. The orange not only lends some subtle fruitiness that cuts the heat of the chiles, it also sets the jelly, thanks to all the naturally occurring pectin in citrus fruits. The result is a soft-set, deep-red jelly with glittery flecks of chile and orange suspended throughout that is as great poured over a softened brick of cream cheese as it is slathered onto a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Set a few small plates or saucers in the freezer-you'll want them when it's time to see if your jelly has set.
- Rinse and dry the orange and all of the peppers. Chop the orange, peel and all, into a few large chunks, then pulse in a food processor until very finely chopped—almost pureed. Transfer to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Stem and seed the bell peppers and coarsely chop; stem the chiles and seed about half of them (or all of them, depending on your heat preference), then coarsely chop. Add all the peppers to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, then transfer to the pot with the orange. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, and salt, then bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture has reduced by about half, 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Spoon a few drops of the jelly onto a cold saucer. If it seizes up, your jelly has set; if not, return the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes more, then try the saucer test again.
- When the jelly is at a consistency you like, transfer it to sanitized jars, then process the jars to seal them, if desired; otherwise, keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
- To serve, spread fried toasts with whipped ricotta, then dollop on a bit of pepper jelly. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Caroline Lange is a writer and cook living in Brooklyn, NY.