Not exactly strawberry jam

5 09 2010

It looked like something that had come out of the neighbor boy’s nose. Lots of it. In a jar.

Definitely irresistible.

If it’s sitting on a shelf in the food section of the grocery store, it must be edible, right?  (Except those tuna strainers they sometimes have hanging in the canned meat aisle. Don’t eat those.) This stuff was located in the jelly aisle right between the apple butter and the apricot jam.  How bad could it be?

But…green sludge. In a jar. My mind and my gag reflex had a wrestling match for a few minutes, and in the end, my mind won out. I bought it.

Now the dilemma: how to eat it. The label said “green pepper jelly” (which, by the way, seems like a complete oxymoron to me), but I had my doubts about smearing it on a slice of bread with some peanut butter. So I referred back to the trusty label.

“Suggested uses: May be spread over or mixed with cream cheese for a wonderful hors d’oeuvre. Use as a glaze over meat, poultry or fish. Great on hot biscuits.”

Since I was trying to get as much of the original flavor as I could without eating the jelly straight out of the jar (I have my limits), I decided to go for the hot biscuit option. Unfortunately, I don’t keep many hot biscuits lying around, so I improvised with the poor man’s biscuit: a toasted bagel.

I opened the jar and gave the jelly a curious sniff. It wasn’t even a big sniff – but it was all that I needed. That jelly was strong stuff. And it didn’t really smell “wonderful” or “great”…more along the lines of my-cat-tried-eating-grass-again-and-obviously-it-didn’t-work-for-her. But I’m not one to judge a book by its cover.

So I spread a healthy amount of jelly on the bagel, pushed any thoughts of cat vomit from my mind, and took a bite.

1 second of chewing: Hmm, this doesn’t really taste like anyth–

I can still taste it. Even now, an hour later, I can still taste it. I will never eat again.

It was spicy. And make no mistake, I like spicy food…if it also tastes good. But this wasn’t just spicy – it was sweet. And that’s just as much of an oxymoron as “green pepper jelly.” I probably should have expected it, but considering that my taste buds are still in shock, I obviously didn’t.

While I was busy trying to wake up my taste buds by washing the flavor down with soda, my biology-student sister walked into the room. “It smells like a dissection,” she announced before she’d even come near the jar of jelly. Yeah, I thought. Something like that. (I would have voiced my agreement, but my tongue was in shock, remember?)

Who exactly came up with this stuff? Did some farmer, somewhere, plant green peppers next to his strawberries, and when it came time to make strawberry jam, did he think, “Ah, what the heck, let’s throw some of these peppers in a pot and dump some sugar in”? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that there are plenty of recipes out there for the jelly. One site in particular suggests giving it as a Christmas gift because of its color. Now I know what to get Great-Aunt Marge in revenge for last year’s fruitcake.

The Food Network gives a five-star recipe for green pepper jelly, and another site suggests pepper jelly and cream cheese sandwiches as an apparent spin-off of the ol’ PB&J.  Bon appetit.

The bottom line is this: I know now that I will probably never eat anything involving green pepper jelly, especially not a bagel. But it’s food, and it’s probably edible…and someone, somewhere, likes it.


Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, water, green bell peppers, apple cider vinegar, cane sugar, pectin, citric acid, minced onion, capsicum and green food color.
Price: $2.87 at Wal-Mart
Pros: Green is a pretty color.
Cons: Odd spicy-but-sweet flavor; not any more appetizing than its appearance would suggest. Might be good with cream cheese, but I say leave the cream cheese alone.

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