Hi friends! I‘m catching up on all of our favorite canning recipes and today it’s my Cowboy Candy Canning recipe. Candied jalapenos, commonly known as “Cowboy Candy”, are a delightful blend of spicy heat and sugary sweetness, making them a perfect addition to a variety of dishes. From sandwiches and salads to tacos and grilled meats, these candied treats spice up meals! I have gifted so many jars to friends and it’s always been a huge hit. I gifted quite a few jars to friends over the years. It’s always been a big hit and has been requested again and again!!
Despite their name, these jalapenos don’t have to be overloaded with sugar. A less sugar version still allows for the perfect harmony of flavors, while taking a healthier route. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making your own batch of candied jalapenos with less sugar at home.
Scouting for Fresh Jalapenos
The first step in making candied jalapenos is, of course, finding the right jalapenos. Freshness is key. This means firm flesh and bruise-free skin. While green jalapenos are often used for their fiery kick, feel free to experiment with red jalapenos or other types of chiles for a different flavor profile.
If you have a green thumb, growing your jalapenos can assure you of their freshness. Peppers are relatively easy to grow, even in pots, and can thrive in hot, dry weather. Interestingly enough, my jalapenos did not produce this past summer. But my sweet and generous neighbor was kind enough to share her abundance with me.
Remember: To ensure a firm texture in your cowboy candy, avoid using mushy or old jalapenos.
The Essential Ingredients
For this cowboy candy canning recipe, you’ll need about 3 pounds of fresh jalapenos. To adjust the heat, you can remove the seeds and membrane for a milder flavor, but if you enjoy a good kick, leave them in.
The brine for candying jalapenos typically calls for vinegar and sugar. However, in our less sugar version, we’re cutting down the amount of sugar to create a more balanced, less sweet flavor.
The ingredients for the brine include:
- 2 cups of apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups of granulated sugar (less sugar than traditional recipes)
- A mix of spices, like turmeric, celery seed, garlic powder, and ground cayenne pepper
The vinegar not only adds a tangy flavor but also acts as a preservative, making the jalapenos shelf-stable. Apple cider vinegar is often used for its mild and slightly sweet flavor, but feel free to swap it out with other types of vinegar like white vinegar or red wine vinegar. Just ensure that it’s at least 5% acidity.
Prepping Your Jalapenos
Before getting started, remember to don a pair of rubber gloves. Jalapenos have natural oils that can cause a burning sensation on your skin. I can speak with firsthand painful knowledge of the long-lasting burn from NOT wearing gloves.
Start by removing the stems from the jalapenos, then slice them into uniform rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. A mandolin can help you with even slices but I have also used a knife. Once your jalapenos are sliced, it’s time to start your brine.
Making the Brine
In a large, non-reactive stockpot, bring the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
Next, add the jalapeno slices and let them simmer in the brine for an additional 5 minutes. This process allows the jalapenos to soak up the flavors of the brine while also softening up a bit.
Canning Your Jalapenos
After simmering, use a slotted spoon to transfer the jalapenos into clean, sterile canning jars. Then, bring the remaining brine back to a hard boil for another 5 minutes before ladling it into the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
Before sealing your jars, make sure to remove any air bubbles and wipe the rims clean. This will ensure a proper seal, crucial for preserving your jalapenos. Once your jars are filled and sealed, it’s time to process them.
Processing Your Jars
Jalapenos are a low-acid food, so they require certain precautions when canning. Normally, you’d need to can jalapenos with a pressure canner. The addition of the brine in these pickled jalapenos allows you to safely water bath or steam can your cowboy candy canning recipe.
To process your jars, place them in your canner and cover them with water by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil, then set your timer for 10 minutes. Remember to adjust the time if you’re canning at an altitude above 1,001 feet.
After the processing time is up, remove the jars from the canner and let them cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Once they’re fully cooled, you can label them and store them away.
A Note on Safety
While making candied jalapenos is a simple process, there are some important safety guidelines to follow:
- Always use fresh, high-quality ingredients.
- Use clean, sterilized jars and new lids.
- Follow the recipe as written, as changing the ratios of vinegar to peppers could affect the acidity levels and make the recipe unsafe.
- Wear gloves when handling spicy peppers to avoid skin irritation.
Ways to Use Cowboy Candy
While it might be tempting to crack open a jar right away, it’s best to let your candied jalapenos sit for at least two weeks, or even a month if you can wait. This allows the flavors to meld and mellow, resulting in a better-tasting product.
But once you’ve waited, the possibilities are endless. Spread them on cream cheese-topped crackers, tuck them into a taco, or chop them up for a sweet and spicy addition to baked beans. You’ll find that your less sugar candied jalapenos are just as versatile and delicious as their sweeter counterparts.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use pickled jalepeños.
- Tuna or Chicken Salad
- Potato or Pasta Salad
- Burgers (inside or on top)
- Baked Beans
- Cream Cheese & Crackers
Making candied jalapenos, or cowboy candy, is a great way to preserve an abundance of jalapenos and enjoy their spicy-sweet flavor all year round. This is incredibly easy with a water bath canner. With this less sugar version, you can enjoy this tasty treat with a little less guilt.
The BEST Candied Jalapeños – Cowboy Candy Canning Recipe
- 3 lbs. fresh jalapeños
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. celery seed
- 3 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- With gloved hands, cut away stems from peppers. Slice into 1/4-inch slices.
- In a large pot, add apple cider vinegar, white sugar, garlic powder, turmeric, and celery seed. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Raise the heat to bring the mixture back to a boil. Once boiling, add the pepper slices. Allow to return to a boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer for 4 minutes.
- Transfer the peppers using a slotted spoon to sterilized glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace.
- With just the syrup in the pot, increase the heat to bring it to a full rolling boil. Boil syrup for about 6 minutes.
- Ladle the syrup into the jars with the jalapeno slices. To remove air pockets, use a skewer to disturb jalepeños. Check the headspace again to ensure 1/4-inch headspace is maintained.
- Wipe the rims of the glass jars with a clean and damp paper towel. Top with a canning lid and screw on the ring to finger tight.
- Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing from the water bath canner. Let sealed jars set for at least 12 hours before disturbing.
If you’re looking for other water bath canning tips and instructions, I dive deep into water bath canning tomatoes, here.