Archive for the ‘jelly’Category

Relicatessen: heavenly products for earthly delights

Relicatessen stall at La Boqueria in Barcelona

Relicatessen in Barcelona solved a problem for us. When we’re in Spain for any extended period, we enjoy seeking out the cookies, sweets, and other foodstuffs from the country’s 38 monasteries and convents that make products for sale. Often that means placing money on a revolving window (called a retorno) and getting a box of cookies, a jar of jam, or a pot of honey in return.

Francisco Vera of Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaBut we’re not always in a town with a cloistered order that makes products for sale. Thank god (so to speak) that Francisco Vera opened Relicatessen ( three years ago in stall 988 in the Mercat Sant Josep, better known as La Boqueria. Located right on La Rambla in a Modernista-style iron frame shed, the Boqueria is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Vera sells the edible products of 11 of the country’s monasteries and nunneries along with some other gourmet items, such as olive oil and saffron.

To get to Vera’s stall, you’ll walk past heaping pyramids of fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated cases of big cuts of meat, cured mountain hams hanging from above, and vast swathes of crushed ice with fish so fresh that their eyes gleam clear and bright.

Temptations from on high

Marmalades at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaVera sells 36 different marmalades, including the signature Spanish bitter orange. The religious order at Monastario de Santa María de Huerta in Soría crafts some of the more sophisticated flavors, such as pear, cinnamon, and cardamom or the combination of kiwi, lemon, and tequila.

There are honeys from the mountains and honeys from fields of anise or groves of madroño trees (strawberry trees). There is dulce de leche “bottled in silence.” The Convento Purísima Concepción makes dulce de membrillo (a quince preserve that’s delicious with Manchego cheese) and Turrón de la Abuela (nougat studded with roasted almonds) that claims to be just like Spanish grandmothers make it. The Monjas Jerónimas Constantina infuse their vinegars with a range of flavors, not least among them mint, rosemary, and garlic.

Yemas at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaThe most popular treats, Vera says, are polvorones, almond shortbread sables made by the Carmelitas Descalzas and Yemas de Santa Clara, candied egg yolks. Legend says that the nuns invented this way of preserving yolks in the late medieval period, when the egg whites were used to clarify wine. The products are so heartfelt that they make nice gifts that also help preserve the vanishing religious vocations. Pressed for his favorite among the many temptations, Vera admits to being most fond of the really good chocolates made by the Monjas Jerónimas.


10 2017

Trying to make Cayman pepper jelly

When we visited the Cayman Islands earlier this month, we flew with carry-on baggage, which severely limited what we could bring home. We jettisoned some shampoo and toothpaste and slid some small jars of Cayman hot pepper jelly into our 1-quart ziploc bags, but it wasn’t enough to keep us in cracker spread for very long.

We thought we’d try to make our own version, almost using up our store of the original to analyze what was in it. (The recipe is a secret, but food labeling laws mean that the packaging discloses the ingredients, if not the proportions or the way they are handled.) Knowing that we didn’t have the “assorted West Indian peppers” listed as the principal ingredients, we improvised. Clearly we needed Scotch bonnets for the heat and fruit, but we also needed some other fruity peppers as filler or the result would be inedible. We finally settled on a mix of sweet bell peppers, long and conical Italian peppers, mildly hot Fresno chile peppers, and (of course) Scotch bonnets.

So with the outdoor thermometer here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reading 19 degrees F (the wind chill brings the effective temperature to-7F), we imagined being back in the warm sunshine of Grand Cayman as we cooked up some heat. As we worked through the recipe, we constantly tasted and adjusted the herbs and spices to parallel the Cayman product as closely as we could.

All jellies take a few days to fully set. We’ll get back to you with a side-by-side taste test.

Cayman style hot pepper jelly (version 1)


3 red bell peppers
3 ripe (orange or red) Italian frying peppers
3 red-ripe Fresno chile peppers
6 ripe Scotch bonnet chile peppers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 1/2 cups white cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pouch Certo liquid pectin


Using a propane torch, char the skins on all the peppers, place in plastic bag to sweat for 5 minutes, then scrape away burnt skins. Cut up peppers, discarding stems, seeds, and white membranes. (Rubber gloves will help prevent chile burn.) Cut peppers into small dice. You should have about 3 cups.

Place diced peppers and vinegar in a blender or food processor and process until completely pureed.

Place pepper puree in 6 quart or larger non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled cast iron) and stir in sugar, butter, salt, garlic, thyme, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring slowly to a rolling boil, stirring all the while to thoroughly dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Skim off foam with a metal spoon. (The butter binds with the foam, making it easy to remove.)

Stir pectin into pepper mixture and raise heat to return to a rolling boil. Boil exactly 1 minute and remove from heat.

Ladle into jelly jars. Add lids and rings. Tighten rings. Process in boiling water bath (about two inches above tops of jars) for 5 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Jelly may take a few days to set.

Makes 7 cups of jelly.


01 2010