You’re having last-minute company and need something easy to serve. If you’re from the southern U.S., one of your go-to appetizers might be a three-ingredient, sweet and savory crowd-pleaser.
Open a block of cream cheese, put it on a plate, slather it with a jar of pepper jelly and serve it with crackers like Wheat Thins, Ritz or saltines. Goat cheese is also a popular alternative to cream cheese. The creaminess of the cheese cuts down on the spiciness of the jelly and the salty crackers round it all out. Appetizer done!
“It’s the last-minute salvation of Southern parties, and we all know the ritual,” as Anne Byrne of Southern Kitchen puts it. “Open a jar, pour over cream cheese, and find crackers fast because guests are at the front door!”
Here’s a Twitter user, @thecockermama, showing the pepper jelly and cream cheese “recipe” in action.
What Is Pepper Jelly?
If you haven’t heard of this simple snack idea, you might also not be familiar with pepper jelly. It’s not to be confused with mint jelly — though some pepper jellies are green — or other types of relish-style jams.
Pepper jelly ingredients usually include a mixture of spicy and bell peppers, vinegar, sugar and pectin. Liquor is also sometimes added. Pepper jelly combinations can include fruits and the level of spiciness varies widely depending on what peppers are used. Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman, for instance, has used spicy habaneros in her pepper jelly. She’s a fan of the pepper jelly and goat cheese/cream cheese combination.
Some sources say the first commercial sale of pepper jelly happened in Lake Jackson, Texas, in about 1978. But a Charleston Museum history of Peggy Rose’s Hot Pepper Jelly says the brand started selling its signature jellies in 1976 in North Carolina. And other newspaper articles across the country reference hot pepper jelly for sale or have recipes dating back to the early 1970s — and they aren’t limited to just the South.
What To Do With Pepper Jelly
Pepper jelly recipes extend beyond an accompaniment to cheese, of course. Pepper jelly is used in main dishes, desserts, pastries and more. Country singer Trisha Yearwood has an easy apricot preserve-red bell pepper jelly recipe that she has used as a topping for meat and lettuce wraps.
Pepper jelly can be made at home but it’s also found in stores and online. Tabasco and Stonewall Kitchen, for instance, have their own versions. In fact, Tabasco has its own recipe for the pepper jelly and cream cheese combo, which is as simple as can be. Find it below:
Tabasco Pepper Jelly And Cream Cheese Spread
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 jar Tabasco brand Original Spicy Pepper Jelly or Mild Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
Place block of cream cheese on serving plate and pour Tabasco Pepper Jelly over cream cheese. Serve as a spread for bagels or crackers.
You can also access this recipe on the Tabasco site.
You’ll also see more pepper jelly and cream cheese appetizers around the holiday season. They’re something festive to enjoy as you await the main meal.
How To Make Pepper Jelly From Scratch
Old Time Knowledge blogger and North Carolina resident Sara Whitford makes and cans her pepper jelly to give as gifts over the holiday. She suggests that four ounces of pepper jelly is the perfect amount to pour over cream cheese.
“We love to eat Hot Pepper Jelly with cream cheese and Ritz Crackers as an hors d’oeuvre over the holidays, but it can also be used as a tasty way to dress up chicken or pork,” Whitford said on her website.
Here’s her YouTube video showing her method:
Have you heard of or tried pepper jelly and cream cheese on crackers?