Cream cheese topped with pepper jelly is a classic appetizer that carries a lot of memories for me. And I truly don’t think you can get more payoff for a simpler presentation than a block of cream cheese and a jar of good pepper jelly. Of course, over the years more and more fancy, artisan, small batch etc. pepper jellies have hit the market, and I am a big fan. Also, goat cheese has become a more and more standard ingredient and I’ve switched that up on occasion with the cream cheese. But me being me, I have also learned to make my own cream cheese, and every year I can Red Pepper Relishfor this very use. But somewhere along the way, I realized I wanted to mix it all up. A fresh, bright homemade pepper jelly style topping that didn’t make huge amounts or require canning. And instead of one or the other, a nice blend of tangy goat and creamy cream cheese. This has become a favorite of mine and a frequently requested recipe and I figured it was time to share.
I am not a person prone to spiciness, so I think this has the perfect blend of sweet heat. But if you do want to make it spicier, substitute one habanero or 2 cayenne peppers for the jalapenos. But know your audience – if you don’t know the spice tolerance of those you’re serving to, stick with the original formula!
Spicy Pepper Jam and Goat Cheese Spread
For the Jam:
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
For the Goat Cheese:
12 ounces creamy goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
For the Pepper Jelly:
Cut the seeds and the ribs from the bell peppers and cut into chunks. Place in the bowl of a food processor (a mini is fine). Cut the seeds and the ribs from the jalapenos, cut into pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until the peppers are finely diced – still textured and not pureed. Scrape into a medium saucepan, add the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened. Scoop a little spoonful onto a small dish and leave to cool for a few minutes. It should set, but just a little bit runnier than you want the finished product to be. It will thicken some as it cools. This can take anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes, so watch closely and stir often. Scoop the cooked jam into a glass container or jar, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
For the Goat Cheese:
Unwrap the goat cheese and place it in a small bowl with the cream cheese and leave until everything is soft. Using a fork or a hand blender, mix until the cheeses are combined and smooth.
Spray a 1-quart baking dish with cooking spray, then spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish – I sometimes find that damp, clean fingers are the most efficient way to do this. Spread the pepper jam over the top of the goat cheese in an even layer. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the edges of the dish to remove any stray pepper jam; a little stuck on the side can burn and make quite a clean-up job. The dish can be covered and refrigerated for several hours at this point.
When ready to cook, take the dish out of the fridge to come to room temperature, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 15 minutes until everything is warmed through and the jam is runny and melty. Serve with simple crackers.
Note: If your pepper jam has firmed up too much before spreading on the goat cheese, microwave it for 30 seconds, give it a good stir and blast for another 15 seconds if needed until it is spreadable.