Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper

It may be safe to say I'll never make another jam without adding some chile peppers to it. I'm addicted. I'll even go as far as to say that I like jam better when it has a hint of the other side of sweet, an afterthought of calm warmth in my mouth. This morning when I woke up earlier than normal (after going to bed much later than usual), instead of feeling groggy and somewhat fuzzy, I felt invigorated and inspired.

My hands are on the mend, and after cleaning up a few dishes from a small dinner party last night I turned to the mangoes that were meant both for mango lassis and frozen storage for future smoothies. All of a sudden, I found a pot of jam on the stove and an excellent breakfast in my belly comprised of mango pits gnawed as clean as cobs of corn.

mango cutting

Mangoes appear to be perfectly in season, and I say this purely based on flavor and not any previous knowledge of when exactly a mango tree is actually prolifically in season. Mangoes are also dirt cheap right now, and armed with the previously culled and stored knowledge that they are a fruit very sensitive to pesticides (and thus rarely sprayed), I usually enjoy the non-organic variety of this fruit. I commonly see the larger, human-heart sized blushing green variety I presume come from Hawaii, but when I find good prices on the smoother fleshed, slender yellow "champagne" mangoes, I get really excited and sometimes go overboard on purchasing them. They taste like exotic peaches, impossibly smooth and slippery in your mouth, and completely without the fibrous tendencies of the more common mangoes. They are mango sophisticates.


I had a couple of varieties of mango already in my possession, and the jam bug hit as I began cubing them up for the freezer. Last week, I moved a jar of cayenne peppers I had dried from my garden last Summer, and I figured mango jam would do well to include that deep, red friend. I also used a combination of orange and lime juices, predominately because I didn't have more than a single lime. I made the most of it by zesting it and including that zest towards the end of the jamming stage. Multiple spoonfuls of boiling jam pot goodness, and this image of Tigress's pepper spiked preserved kumquats, had me also reaching for the pepper grinder...

lime zest

Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Hungry Tigress)

my yield was 3 half pints and 1 3/4 pint jars
  • 2 lbs. mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 cayenne peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • enough juiced orange to equal 1/2 c. when added to the lime juice
  • coarsely ground black pepper to taste,
  • 3 c. (574 g.) sugar (I used raw sugar)

Combine the mangoes, cayenne peppers, lime and orange juices in a preserving pot and cook gently over medium low heat until the mangoes soften and are tender. After they have softened, mash lightly with a masher then add sugar. (Taste, and if it isn't hot enough for you, add more cayenne pepper or powdered cayenne pepper.)

Increase the heat to medium, stirring frequently to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. When sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to medium high, add several grinds of coarse black (tellicherry) pepper and boil until a spoonful of jam mounds up when placed on a chilled dish. Stir in the lime zest.

Ladle jam into sterilized and still hot jam jars (use pint, 3/4 pint, or half pint jars), and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper
mixed app iPhone pic homage to Tigress...

This chile spiked mango jam has a nice soft heat balanced with peachy sweetness. I can't wait to eat it on grilled cheeses and with cheese (which is my new favorite way to eat jam, I think). It may make a nice seltzer drink, or when thinned, a terrific sauce for vanilla ice cream or a topping for some rich, creamy cheesecake. Half the fun of making a new jam is deciding what to lop spoons of it onto!

My idea of jam making has changed so much in the past few years. I used to think that I could only make jam with fruit that I'd grown myself and in huge batches - probably reminiscent of the way my family preserved jam when I was growing up. Thanks to so many small-batch preservers, I've made stellar little 4 jar experiments with supermarket fruit that have slyly surprised me with their deliciousness. I've grown bold, adding herbs and spices to things I'd never considered, thanks to so many of my favorite preservers - maybe I will make it my 2012 mission to add chiles to everything I pop into jars.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper