This pineapple habanero jam is sweet and fruity with just the lightest lingering tingle of heat from the spicy pepper.
Pair it with a creamy soft cheese, like goat cheese or mascarpone, on a slice of toast and you've got basically the perfect breakfast.
Pineapple habanero jam is also a fantastically unique element to include on a cheese board. And who doesn't love a cheese board?
About This Recipe // Why I Like It
When I looked ahead in my pastry school binder at the start of the semester at CSCA to see what our focus each week would be I didn't give jams and jellies week much thought.
I'm not a big jam and jelly person, marmalade is too chunky for my tastes, and I generally prefer warm/savory dessert flavors to sweet and fruity ones.
But oh man, was I so wrong. Making jams and jellies is so much fun. And the tiny jewel-toned jars make great gifts.
If you're looking for a good way to get creative and experiment with flavor pairings, jams and jellies are a really good place to start.
In class I started with an orange cardamom marmalade (it was fine), a strawberry basil jelly (couldn't taste the basil enough), and my favorite: a pineapple habanero jam with a deliciously mild heat.
The pineapple habanero jam was so good I immediately knew I had to share it here.
Storage Notes and Shelf Life
The cool thing about making jam (and jelly) is that because it's a preserve it stays good for quite a long time.
The sugar isn't just there for sweetness, it also has antiseptic properties that prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
If you follow the proper canning procedure I've shared below, you can keep your pineapple habanero jam without refrigeration for up to a year.
Once opened, it should go in the fridge, where it is also good for up to a year.
What is Pectin?
The answer that got me an A+ on my last pastry school exam was: "Pectin is a water-soluble carbohydrate naturally occurring in fruit. It is responsible for gelling preserves when combined with sugar and acid."
What you actually need to know is: Pectin is a powder made from fruits that naturally contain high amounts of pectin, like apples and oranges.
When you make jam with fruits that are naturally low in pectin, like pineapple, the pectin combines with the added sugar and acid (lemon juice) to allow the cooked fruit mixture to gelatinize.
Because pineapples are a low-pectin fruit, this jam recipe does require added pectin to help it set up.
I've linked some options for pectin in this post so you can make sure you have the right type of pectin. But if you're in the store just look for "rapid-set" or "classic" pectin in the canning or baking section of your grocery store.
⏲️ How to can fruit preserves for long term storage
Canning might seem like a big, laborious process that requires lots of specialized equipment, but it can actually be done small scale — just be careful with the boiling water and slippery tongs. This is the process I learned in pastry school, and it's super easy.
If you're going to use your jam immediately, you don't need to take this step. But if you're planning on keeping it for a while before use, or are giving it as a gift, this step creates an airtight seal and ensures it remains safe to eat for a year or more.
You will need: Glass jars with the two-part lids. The disc part of the lids need to be new and unused (the rubber gasket seal is one-time use only) but the rings and jars can be used over and over again. You can buy replacement disc lids online. I usually use small 4 oz (½ cup) jars or medium 8 oz (1 cup) jars.
- Sanitize the jars and lids — The empty glass jars should be submerged, upright, in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. The lids (not the rings) should be submerged in simmering (not boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the boiling water and dry the insides with a paper towel right before filling with jam.
- Fill each jar with jam — Leave about ¼"-⅛" space at the top.
- Remove air bubbles — Run a knife or small offset spatula around the edges of the jar, all the way to the bottom.
- Clean the rim — Use a damp paper towel to remove any debris from the rim of the jar. If anything gets in the way of the rubber seal on the lid, you won't get an airtight seal.
- Screw the lid on —You want it to be "fingertip tight" meaning you could unscrew it with minimal effort using just your fingertips. No water should be able to get in, but the air trapped inside the jar needs to be able to get out.
- Submerge the jars in boiling water — There needs to be at least 1-2 inches of water above the top of the jar. Submerge the jars all at once, then cover the pot and leave the jars at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. The pressure inside will force the air out of the jars, giving you an airtight seal. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, turn off the heat, and leave the jars for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from water and seal — Remove the jars from the water. The lids should all be flat on top, or will pop flat within a few minutes of being removed from the water. Use a towel to carefully tighten the lid rings the rest of the way. Caution: JARS WILL BE HOT!
TIP: If the lids don't pop flat, you'll have to repeat the canning process. Or you can try leaving them to cool upside down — sometimes that helps push any extra air out of the jar. (h/t Chef Jody O'Sullivan for this tip!)
Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- You can find pectin near the canning supplies in most grocery stores or you can find it online. IMPORTANT: You want high methoxyl (HM) pectin which is the most common kind of pectin — it's often labeled as "rapid-set" or "classic" pectin. You don't want any pectin labeled as "for use in low or no sugar needed" recipes or "great for freezer jam" because that kind of pectin requires added calcium to set.
- I used habanero powder in this but it can be a bit hard to find in smaller quantities. I like the habanero flavor and heat because it melts right into the sweetness of the pineapple and produces a subtle heat that is even throughout every bite. If you can't find habanero powder, you can also use the same about of cayenne, red chile powder, or any other ground chili powder you like. Each one will bring a different type of heat to the jam; some will be more present throughout, others will be more of an aftertaste. Feel free to get creative!
- If you don't have an immersion blender (or food processor), you'll want to really finely chop and mince your pineapple before you start cooking it down. The first time I made this the pineapple chunks were too big and they ended up crystalizing when the sugar was added instead of turning to jam.
- Be careful not to lean right over the pot when you're cooking down the pineapple once the chile powder has been added — there's a lot of steam going on and it can really make your eyes water!
- When you trim the pineapple, remove the core (it's quite tough!) and make sure you don't leave any of the little spiky "eyes" on the flesh. Nothing gets strained out of this jam, so anything you leave on the pineapple will end up in your final jam.
Important Jam-Making Notes
- Add your sugar in two parts. The first addition of sugar should be mixed well with the powdered pectin to prevent the pectin from clumping up.
- Sugar is endothermic which is science for "it retains heat really well" — so well, in fact, that sugar keeps cooking even once you remove it from the heat. You do need to bring the jam to a low boil once you add the sugar, but don't crank the heat. A medium-ish temp will be fine because the sugar will provide some heat on its own, too.
- Once you get the jam to your desired consistency be ready to transfer it to a jar or container pretty quickly. Again, because sugar is endothermic, you'll want to get it out of the hot pot and into something where it will slow/stop the cooking process. It will be fine in the pot for about 5 minutes, but if you let it sit for 10+ minutes you'll end up with a thicker jam.
- If you do decide to can the jam properly, make sure you have a pot big enough for your jam jars to stand upright with at least 1" of water above the lids.
Pineapple Habanero Jam
- Cook pineapple, ground habanero, and half the water over medium heat until pineapple is quite soft. This may take up to 10 or even 15 minutes. If the water boils away before the pineapple is soft enough to produce its own juices to cook in, add the rest of the water. Keep stirring and mashing the pineapple to break it down as much as possible.
- Whisk together pectin with 150 grams sugar, then measure out the remaining 150 grams sugar in a separate container and set both aside.
- When the pineapple has softened and the water has mostly evaporated, use an immersion blender to pulverize it until no large chunks remain.
- While stirring, add the pectin and sugar mixture to the pineapple. Add the lemon juice, and stir to combine. The mixture should begin to thicken pretty quickly. Then add the remaining 150 grams sugar and stir well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until desired consistency is reached.
- To check the consistency, put a small dollop (about ¼ tsp) on a plate (not plastic) and stick it in the fridge for 30-60 seconds. Then try spreading it with a spoon or knife. If it's too liquid-y, keep cooking a little while longer. If it spreads like jam, it's done. You can keep cooking if you want a thicker jam but it will become firmer as it cools so better to pull it a bit early than cook it a bit too long.If it's still too chunky, you can use the immersion blender again at this point, just be careful because the sugar is quite hot!
- Transfer the jam to a glass jar for canning, or to any airtight container for immediate use and storage.
- If you don't have an immersion blender, you'll want to really finely mince your pineapple before you start cooking it. Pulse it a few times in a food processor if you have one.
- Look for pectin labeled "classic," "original," or "rapid-set" — NOT "low sugar." The low sugar stuff needs calcium to set up.