THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for October 21, 2011

PRODUCT: Hellfire Pepper Jelly, Cream Cheese & More

We love a good pepper jelly—and not all of them are good. Many are just too sugary, throwing the sweet/heat balance way over to the sweet side.

In eight years of reviewing specialty foods, the only pepper jelly lines we’ve liked enough to review are Aloha From Oregon, Cherith Valley and Diane’s Sweet Heat.

And now, there’s Hellfire Pepper Jelly—not a line of pepper jellies, but just one variety in the Jenkins Jellies line. The website can be a bit hyperbolic (e.g. the jelly does not contain “psychotically hot peppers”) but perhaps that’s because one of the company’s owners is related to a famous Hollywood family: actors Blythe Danner and her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow; directors Bruce Paltrow (husband to Blythe) and son Jake Paltrow (among other family members in show biz).

Hillary Danner began making jams and jellies from the bounty of the fruit trees and grape arbor in her Los Angeles backyard. She began to sell her most acclaimed recipe, the hot and spicy Hellfire Pepper Jelly, at farmers markets. Demand exploded, and Danner partnered with Maria Newman and chef Jared Levy to create a line of artisan jams and jellies (we wish we had access to the rest of them!).


Tasty and hot gourmet pepper jelly,
Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


Hellfire Pepper Jelly is a very fine example of the genre. The complex flavor comes from a mix of seven different chiles (sorry, we can’t bear to call them “peppers” because of a mistake* made 520 years ago by Christopher Columbus).

Buy it on the company website. A portion of sales goes to the Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund.

What Is Pepper Jelly?

Pepper jelly is a clear, sweet-and-spicy jelly that contains flecks of hot chile peppers. Different fruits and spices can be added for complexity—for example, pineapple or mango on the sweet side, and tomato or bell pepper on the savory side.

Pepper jelly is often made with jalapeños and serranos, which are medium-heat chiles. Habañero is one step up on the Scoville Scale, and Scotch bonnet is at the top of the scale, categorized as extreme. (See the different types of chiles.)

While on the hotter side, Hellfire Pepper Jelly does not cripple your taste buds. It’s exhilarating rather than searing.

Bring some Hellfire as a host/hostess gift for Halloween, or keep it in mind for teacher gifts, stocking stuffers and other small holiday gifts.

How To Use Pepper Jelly
Pepper jelly is most famously served as an hors d’oeuvre or snack with cream cheese—typically poured over a block of cream cheese on a plate and surrounded with crackers, so guests can help themselves. You can do the work yourself, garnishing individual crackers with cream cheese and jelly for passed hors d’oeuvre. Sweet and tart, hot and spicy, creamy and crunchy: it delivers a spectrum of favorite flavors.

You don’t need to have a party to serve it: We enjoy pepper jelly with peanut butter or cream cheese on whole wheat toast.

But don’t stop there: Here are dozens of uses with everything from omelets and yogurt to meatballs and cheesecake.

  • Find more of our jellies in our Gourmet Jams & Jellies Section.
  • What’s the difference between jam and jelly? Between preserve and conserve? Check out our “spread sheet”: our Jams & Jellies Glossary.
    *Chiles were “discovered” in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, who called them “peppers” (pimientos, in Spanish) because of their fiery similarity to the black peppercorns with which he was familiar. However, there is no relationship between the two plants, or between chiles and Szechuan pepper. “Chile pepper” is a misnomer, and the term “pepper” is not used in Latin America. There, the term is chili, from chilli, the word in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. More on the history of chiles.


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    COOKING VIDEO: Fun Halloween Food


    Eyeball food is fun Halloween food. These Halloween Eyeball Bites will have everyone eating more veggies, too—a counterbalance to all the candy.

    Using favorite veggie slices—cucumbers, carrots and cherry tomatoes, for example—you only need to add cream cheese and olive slices.

    For a more sophisticated flavor, substitute fresh goat cheese for cream cheese.

    The recipe uses canned sliced black olives, which are very bland—they’re more of a decoration than a food. If olive lovers are eating these, buy some quality pitted olives or pimento-stuffed olives and slice them yourself.

    Here’s looking at you—from the plate!



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Cheese Rinds

    It almost goes without saying: There is hardly an excuse to buy one of those green, cylindrical cans of pre-grated, processed Parmesan “cheese.”

    A good chunk of real Parmigiano-Reggiano (or other Italian grating cheese) can be found in pretty much any grocery store across the country. When it comes to quality and flavor, there truly is no comparison.

    If you don’t already buy your Parmesan in wedges, get some of the good stuff on your next trip to the store and grate it over your pasta. The difference is undeniable.

    With a wedge of hard cheese, you get two uses for the price of one.

    When you’ve grated the cheese down to the rind, don’t throw it away! The rind can be an amazing flavor booster for soups, stocks, sauces and even pasta water.


    Don’t throw away the rind of Parmigiano—or other fine cheeses. Photo courtesy AG Ferrari.


    Simply drop it into whatever it is you’re cooking and let it sit for as long as possible. It can add saltiness, richness, and even a bit of nuttiness to a dish (as do the rinds of other hard cheeses—just remove any heavy wax coating, such as the peelable wax on Gouda).

    Pull the rind out before serving.

    If you’re not planning to cook anything appropriate when you get down to the rind, wrap and save it until you do.

    Or, you can toast the rinds and eat them.


    Anyone in the world can make a cheese called “Parmesan,” using a recipe similar to authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano. While there are some perfectly fine Parmesans made in America and elsewhere, the same name is also used for that dried-out grated cheese sold in cardboard tubes.

    The real-deal Parmigiano-Reggiano is regulated by law and must be produced in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, and made by a cheesemaker who is a member of the Consorzio Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, a self-governing body of dairies). The cheese is produced in accordance with strict regulations: Cheeses deemed not good enough to bear the stamp of Parmigiano-Reggiano are removed from the aging caves and declassified.

    Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the glories of the cheese world—and that includes its rind. Read more on the history and production of Parmigiano-Reggiano.


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