Heat Up Your Stocking Stuffers: Jenkins Jellies' Hell Fire Pepper Jelly

I'll admit it: I have a spicy food addiction. Whether it's Jitlada's tear-inducing Thai food or Trader Joe's habanero hot sauce, I have an affinity for all things hot. That said, my favorite spicy foods are those that don't sacrifice flavor for heat's sake. So when I received a jar of locally-made Jenkins Jellies' Hell Fire Pepper Jelly last week, I was in heaven.

Jenkins Jellies Hell Fire Pepper Jelly
Jenkins Jellies was started by Hillary Danner, an L.A.-based actress-turned-mom-turned-preserves-entrepreneur who needed a way to keep up with the constant bounty from her backyard fruit trees. If you can't eat 'em, can 'em. She enlisted the help of longtime family friend, Maria Newman, and expertise of Chef Jared Levy, and officially launched Jenkins Jellies. Among the jellies is the aforementioned Hell Fire Pepper Jelly, a "blend of organic sugar, vinegar, pectin, fresh organic and non-organic hot & sweet peppers and cayenne." I'd venture to call it happiness in a jar, especially during the holiday season.

Each jar (available in 4.8oz/$8, 11.9oz/$12 and 16.9oz/$20 sizes) comes affixed with a tiny spoon warning would-be tasters to stir the jelly first. Drats, you can't just dive in? Don't worry, it's worth the 10 second wait. One look at the pepper jelly -- seeds and all -- and you know it's named Hell Fire for a reason. Danner and co. isn't messing around but have managed to balance layers of heat and sweet in a way that works with, well, everything. Which is perhaps why my jar is, well, nearly empty.

Try it with a dollop of goat cheese or creme fraiche on a water cracker...
I started innocently enough: Hell Fire Pepper Jelly on multigrain toast. Then on a toasted waffle smeared with flax peanut butter. Then on water crackers topped with a dollop of chilled creme fraiche to temper the heat. Then, at the behest of Mario Batali, on a ripped chunk of warm crusty bread slathered with soft Pecorino cheese. Good God, that should be illegal. The combination of warm, pillowy bread with nutty Pecorino and the subtle build of the sweet spice was so good I had flashes of hoarding the Hell Fire Pepper Jelly and keeping it for myself. Then I came to my senses and realized I had to share it, lest no one else understand how incredibly great this pepper jelly is.

Jenkins Jellies Hell Fire Pepper Jelly is available online at www.jenkinsjellies.com, in-store at Danner's Studio Root 66 in downtown Los Angeles, and Dean & Deluca specialty stores nationwide. Get one for a friend for Christmas. Stuff a jar in your favorite foodie's stocking. Add it to a gourmet holiday gift basket. Ladle it on top of cream cheese and crackers for a perfect holiday party appetizer. Drizzle warmed pepper jelly over a piece of cheesecake. Or just get one for yourself, stand in the kitchen and eat it out of the jar. I won't judge you.

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