WATCH: Why Southerners Love Pepper Jelly

What's not to love?

Pepper Jelly
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Ever heard of pepper jelly? Of course you have. If you're from the South, the answer is almost always, "Yes, and I love it." Pepper jelly is a Southern-favorite preserve in jelly form—somewhere between a jam and a relish—that we add to anything and everything. The main ingredients in pepper jelly are peppers, sugar, and vinegar, which combine with pectin to form the preserve we know and love. Southerners pop open a jar for an easy app before dinner, and we've been known to cook our main dishes with it too. Pepper jelly—in all its many flavors—perks up any day, any meal, any way. But that's only one reason we love it. The others? Let us count the ways…

All you need are crackers (and some cream cheese).

We're sometimes asked, ″How am I supposed to eat pepper jelly?" and the truth is that it's up to you. It goes with anything and everything. It's a no-fail complement if ever we've tasted one. But if you're looking for an entry point into pepper jelly, then try a classically Southern way to consume this treat: pepper jelly plus a crunchy cracker and a smear of cream cheese. Sound strange? Open up a sleeve of your favorite wheat crackers, pick up a package of cream cheese, layer together, and have a taste. You'll see what we mean.

Pepper jelly comes in all flavors.

While red and green pepper jellies are tried-and-true classics, we're not afraid to step outside the jelly jar and try the South's many unexpected flavors of pepper jelly. We're spoiled for choice when it comes to picking out the perfect pepper jelly. We've been known to enjoy blueberry pepper jelly, pineapple pepper jelly, blackberry pepper jelly, whiskey pepper jelly, peach pepper jelly, cranberry pepper jelly, mango pepper jelly, hot pepper jelly, mild pepper jelly—there are no limits when it comes to flavors of pepper jelly, and we Southerners savor each and every one.

Pepper jelly goes with everything.

And we mean everything. While crackers and cream cheese are our favorite pairings for pepper jelly, it is a versatile topper, and it complements everything from main dishes to apps and salads. You can also cook with it. Start using pepper jelly in the kitchen by making some of our favorite recipes: Red Pepper Jelly-Brie Bites, Pepper Jelly Palmiers, Pork Chops with Pepper Jelly Sauce, Pepper Jelly-Goat Cheese Cakes, Pepper Jelly-Glazed Carrots, and Red Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette, for starters. If you want to stock your pantry, you can find pepper jelly wherever preserved goods are sold; online, try Stonewall Kitchen and Lauri Jo's.

How much do you love pepper jelly? Is it one of your pre-dinner go-to apps, or are you finding new ways to cook with it in the kitchen?

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