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Pepper Jelly Sweetened with Stevia: It’s a Hit!

This entry is part of a series, Pepper Jelly Chronicles»

Stevia

Many Americans are vitally interested in sweeteners to replace refined sugar. Some have diabetes and must control their sugar; others are dieting and are willingly removing sugar from their food. Still others have economic interests, whether as manufacturers, growers, stockholders or other pieces of the overall sweetener ecosystem.

Stevia is one of the more recent additions to options available, at least in the States. While there is some controversy, this “natural” (meaning plant-sourced) sweetener is catching the attention of cooks and prepared foods makers across the land. I won’t get sucked into the black hole that is the sweetener altercation here. (Maybe over on my political site.) Instead, I’m going to look at using stevia-based sweetener in my pepper jelly recipes.

Time to experiment! Just what a happy cook (and organic chemist) lives for…

There are at least three dimensions I want to explore here. First, the sweetening power is important. The taste element is key too; if it leaves a bad after-taste, then it’s no better (and maybe worse) than other products I can use. Third, there’s the per-dose cost. No sense in changing over if it’s prohibitively expensive. Indeed, I’d like to get the same sweet sense, with no loss of flavor quality, and with lower overall cost if I can get it.

Most all my lower-sugar pepper jelly recipes so far have used sucralose as the co-sweetener. It’s readily available, not terribly expensive (at least as store-brand material), and for most folks it doesn’t lower the flavor profile. However, a few of us notice an aftertaste that’s clearly not from sugar, and I don’t care for it much. My reaction to that off taste is much less than some folks, though.

I use Truvia in my morning coffee, and there I don’t notice any difference from sugar unless I get quite a lot in. In cold drinks, though, I notice a difference right away, and if strongly sweet I really don’t like it. So we’ll have to see how the jelly comes out.

My choice for this project is Better Stevia by Now Foods. I considered Truvia, since I already use that. However, the per-batch cost of Truvia, as a replacement for sucralose, actually increases overall cost a little bit. Not really enough to take Truvia out of the running, but I wondered if I couldn’t go the other direction on cost. Cruising the specialty foods aisle of my local HEB store, If found the little vial of Better Stevia, sandwiched in among several other sugar replacements. It looked interesting. A small, brown bottle with an eye dropper, looking more like tincture of iodine than a modern food additive. The little container of concentrate claims to hold 461 servings of four drops each; I wonder who had to count all that out? Anyway, it sure seemed interesting. And at about $6.50 for the bottle, I could see getting about a buck out of the cost of a batch of jelly.

Sure sold me! Off to the kitchen to test.

I had the peppers ready in no time for a batch of jelly. I wanted to try red-and-zesty first, as that would have the best chance of hiding any off-tastes. I plan to try mild jellies later, of course. I used a red bell pepper, a double-handful of ripe cayennes, and a good cupful of red serranos. I seeded the bell pepper but not the others. Into the processor, and once the paste was ground down I transferred to my big jelly pot. I added 2¼ cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups sugar, and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the stevia concentrate. The volume was still a little low for six full half-pints, though, since the stevia doesn’t add any; so I added about a half-cup of white grape juice. That doesn’t add any color and no noticeable flavor or sweetness, compared to the materials already in the pot. Oh, I used 3 tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin as well, and some of my usual “secret” spices.

This jelly set up nicely after canning. It’s plenty hot; in fact, I named it Phoenix Phumes in honor of its flame-throwing capabilities. I don’t notice any odd flavors in it, and it’s nicely sweet. Compared to other hot, red pepper jellies this season it’s in the same region of sweetness. Of course, I’ll know more once my taste buds grow back; man, that is one hot jelly…

Enjoy the (Naturally Sweet) Heat!

Entries in this series:
  1. Red Pepper Jelly Sunday
  2. Pepper Jelly Update: Anybody Got a Gas Mask I Can Borrow?
  3. Tag-Team Teaching in the Kitchen
  4. Lemon Ginger Marmalade, an Easy Spread to Make
  5. Yellow Inferno for Breakfast: Caribé-Habañero Pepper Jelly
  6. Lemony-Hot Jam, a Hybrid Spread With a Slow Burn
  7. Hatch Chiles and Lime, a Great Combo for Jam
  8. Jessica, Your Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly is Ready
  9. Hunting the Wild Prickly Pear in South Texas
  10. Prickly Pear Jelly Redux: Juice, Juice Everywhere…
  11. Charred Pineapple, Habañeros and Bourbon, a Great Jam Combo
  12. How to Push Prickly Pear Jelly Over the Top With Serrano Chiles
  13. Not Your Momma’s Marmalade
  14. A Jam That’s Just Plum Good…
  15. Peaches O’ Eight Jam, the Perfect Pirate Toast Topping
  16. Saint Basil’s Green; It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
  17. Pepper Jelly Redux: Apricot Jam, Extra-Zesty Habañero and Serrano Jellies
  18. Pepper Jelly Sweetened with Stevia: It’s a Hit!
  19. Gardens, Gators, and Green Pepper Jelly
  20. Do Hairless Peaches Make Great Jam? You Betcha…
  21. Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Jam
  22. Cinnamon Plus Heat Equals Magic
  23. March Madness, With Mangos…
  24. StingJam, a New Variety of Pepper Jelly
  25. Butter and Scotch? Not Quite; But a Great Jelly Nonetheless…
  26. White Flesh Peach Zingjam, a Refreshing Topping
  27. More Summertime Fruit Pepper Jellies
  28. Holiday Marmalade with Habaneros and Prickly Pear Juice
  29. Pepper Jelly Makes a Great Christmas Present
  30. Cherry Season is Here, and Cherry Pepper Jellies are Great
  31. Pepper Jellies and the Manzano Chile
  32. Singapore Sling Pepper Jelly! Now You Can Drink Your Toast…
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