C. Hope Clark spins her tales Southern like she loves her food, her men, heck, you name it. Hope lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, that is when she isn’t wandering the sands of Edisto Beach where her current series takes place. Her recent release is Edisto Jinx, book two in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Learn more about Hope and her books at her website.
Whenever a new book comes out, reviews follow close behind. Edisto Jinx is an October release, again starring Callie Jean Morgan, a broken and flawed ex-detective relocated to the beach to regroup and reboot her life’s purpose. Of course fate slings all kinds of opportunity in the guise of tragedy at her to challenge her decision as to just what that purpose is. I love flawed characters. And I love digging out the best and worst of them, the juxtaposition making the plot oh that much sweeter.
Such journeys aren’t limited to novels. Life is better for all of us when we endure calamity and turn it into character growth. While horrible experiences aren’t pleasant when they occur, in hindsight, we’re often grateful for the experience, and what it molds us into.
It’s the highs and lows that give color to our lives. The lows hand us lessons that, if we’re smart, we apply to the days ahead. And if we take the moment to deeply appreciate the most excellent times when we’re flying high with mile-wide smiles, we can spot those dark-day lessons in our success.
I am Southern, and I serve no food to guests without proper spice and correct balance of flavors. Plenty of highs and lows there, too. Nothing bland. No, ma’am and no sir. My spice cabinet is amply stacked and loaded to address whatever comes out of my garden, hen house, or husband’s latest deer hunt excursion. Herbs hang on the wall, drying in bunches.
This time of year the garden is in transition. Winter crops still mature; crops that include collards, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Summer crops have borne their fruit and wilted down to the soil where I’ll either pull up the stalks or till in the compost. But one crop tends to weather the transition with vigor and style, as if waving at the autumn leaves to say, “Hey, look at me. I can do color, too.”
This is the time of year that my peppers explode in flavor and hues. While they grow in the summer, they come into their own in September and continue a prolific level of production until that first hard pumpkin frost. And when they are at their peak, there aren’t enough recipes on the planet to use them all up. I try, though, and my favorite means of savoring my peppers is in pepper jelly.
The thought of uniting peppers in a sweet jelly causes a mental train-wreck to the uneducated, but to those of us who know better, the heat and the sweet make a profound combination. You can use the jelly in a sweet recipe, or take it over to the savory side on cheese. The simplest way to serve it is by simply dumping a half cup of it over a bar of cream cheese as a spread during football games. Goodness knows you can’t have enough finger foods for a tailgate affair, and this stuff goes fast. Better bring two bars of cheese, and double the jelly.
Something magical happens on your tongue when you take a bite of pepper jelly. The sweet hits you first, then slowly the pepper heat creeps in. You take another bite: sweet then heat. It’s addictive, and if you’re a cheese aficionado to boot, your calorie counting effort crashes and burns.
Do you still have ample pepper jelly once the cream cheese is gone? Use it like any other jelly in preparing meat dishes. Pork takes on an especially impressive taste. Shrimp becomes decadent, and burgers are to die for. But goodness gracious, you ought to taste the marinated chicken wings! You can even use it on ice cream, peanut butter, in mixed drinks, and in salad dressings.
Soon you can’t do without it. Never made jelly? Well, this is one of the simplest recipes to learn by. And an extra special side benefit is its beautiful green color. Pick your peppers green, yellow and red and you have a kitchen product worthy of a Christmas gift. Enjoy!
1 cup finely chopped peppers (choose peppers of choice – I use 1/3 cup each of jalapeno, banana and bell peppers – don’t worry, the sugar cuts a lot of the jalapeno heat – just don’t use the seeds)
1 pkg. Certo gel pectin
1 pkg. Certo gel pectin
1-1/3 cup bottled apple juice
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 drop green food coloring
4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. butter
Measure peppers into a six to eight-quart saucepan. Stir in apple juice and vinegar. Measure the exact amount of sugar and stir it into the pepper mixture in saucepan. Add the butter to reduce foaming.
Bring mixture to a full, roiling boil, constantly stirring. Roiling means the boiling won’t stop even while you stir. Boil for one minute. Add the pectin. Return to a boil. Remove from heat. Skim any foam off with a metal spoon, but the butter should take care of most if not all.
Ladle quickly into prepared Ball or Mason jars, filling to within 1/8” of top. Prep your jars before you start cooking the mixture by placing them in hot water, boiling them and the two-piece metal ring covers for at least ten minutes. Leave the waiting jars in the water as you fill each jar.
Wipe any trace of jelly off jar rims and threads. Screw the two-piece lid on each jar. Screw tightly. Place jars back in the hot boiling water bath, covered by one to two inches of water, and bring to a gentle boil. Cook five minutes. Remove jars to a towel to cool completely. After the jars cool, check seals by pressing the lid. If lid springs back it is not sealed. Refrigerate. If the lid is firm, it can be stored for up to a year. (Thus the reason you use new lids.) After 24 hours, store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, keep refrigerated. Lasts up to three weeks.
Is it a flesh and blood killer—or restless spirits?
According to a local psychic, beautiful Edisto Beach becomes a hotbed of troublemaking spirits every August. But when a visitor dies mysteriously during a beach house party, former big-city detective Callie Morgan and Edisto Beach police chief Mike Seabrook hunt for motives and suspects among the living. With tourists filling the beaches and local business owners anxious to squelch rumors of a murderer on the loose, Callie will need all the help she can get—especially once the killer’s attention turns toward her.