If you’re a Hawaii local, chances you have someone in the family or know someone who makes a kick @ss Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly that they share, especially around the Holiday Season. For me that would be Mom.
If you read Liliha Bakery’s Yelp reviews, you’ll notice the unanimous menu item raved about by most folks who dine at their coffee shop is the Butter Roll, served with their famous “Nuclear” Jelly. Or “Atomic” Jelly. Or “Radioactive” Jelly, depending who you ask.
Liliha Bakery Butter Roll with “Nuclear” Jelly, a.k.a. “Atomic” Jelly”, a.k.a. “Radioactive” Jelly. Photo courtesy of of Jeni Mae M. on Yelp
I asked the girl working at the Nimitz bakery what the real name of their “Nuclear” Jelly is and she said it’s simply “Liliha Bakery Jelly”. She also confirmed that the flavoring ingredient is Raspberry, however if you ask me, I think it tastes more like Cherry, albeit in a VERY artificial way. My best description is that Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly taste like “Jelly-fied” Red Vines; nothing more, nothing less.
Mom bottles her Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly in sterilized canning jars, which last a very long time in the refrigerator. I’ve had an unopened bottle last over a year and not go bad. The one I have here today is over 3 months “ripe” and still kickin’ okole!
Let’s take a look at the two with a single dollop each on separate little condiment dishes…
You can clearly see pieces of real Hawaiian Chili Pepper floating within that Jelly on the left, while Liliha Bakery’s artificially-flavored Raspberry “Nuclear” Jelly is just colored a very artificial looking luminescent red. Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly has no food coloring at all; its amber hue is strictly from the red color of the peppers.
What exactly do Hawaiian Chili Peppers look like? Here you go….
Here’s a Hawaiian Chili Pepper Tree growing in mom’s backyard…
So what’s the back story behind the Hawaiian Chili Pepper? Well, legend has it that this handsome, powerful and akamai Luna named Pomaika’i discovered the tiny red hot pepper while on a Hokule’a voyage to Tahiti, and fell in love with it. So he brought it back to the Hawaiian Islands as a gift to King Kamehameha. The King was so pleased with what he officially named the Hawaiian Chili Pepper, that he granted Pomaika’i any beautiful single woman he desired in the kingdom. And the rest is history.
Nah, just kidding. That did sound pretty good, though! LOL!
By far, my favorite bread to serve with butter and jelly are English Muffins. LOVE THE STUFF! You-u-u-u not MY MUFFIN! Sorry, inside joke there. Anyhow, and when it comes to brands, Hawaii’s own Hawaii Star English Muffins are the best!
Each pre-split muffin is plenty thick, with more than enough substance to hold up to whatever you want to put on it or serve it as, whether it’s making Eggs Benedict, topping it with pizza stuff, or as I love best, simply spreading on a generous helping of buttah and jelly!
What really sets the Hawaii Star English Muffin apart from the rest though, is the Yellow Corn Meal they dip each muffin in, that provides this fantastic gritty texture and mild corn bread-like flavor to the muffin. LOVE IT!
When I toast my English Muffins, I try to keep an eye on them, as I’m very picky about how toasted they get. I like it where they just begin creeping brown on the edges, but not all the way. I still like some parts of the top less toasted, exactly how you see pictured above. That’s PERFECT!
Now when it comes to butter, you’re probably going to wanna’ slap me upside the head when I tell you that, when it comes to anything on toast, I actually prefer “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” over real butter. Yes, it’s true. I don’t know. There’s just something about real butter I don’t like the taste of on toast. I think it’s because I was raised on “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” for toast. Yet not to fret, as for everything else that involves cooking, it’s strictly real butter for me. Salted butter, I might add.
As for amount of “butter” on my English Muffin, I like it just to the point under being totally saturated, where when I bite into it, it practically spurts in my mouth. Ha ha! Naughty boy.
Gotta’ dig my chili pepper “prop” there. Yet I dare you bite into that Hawaiian Chili Pepper just like that. I triple dare you! Dude, believe me, you do NOT want to bite into a Hawaiian Chili Pepper straight up, as you will DEEPLY REGRET IT!
According to this West Hawaii Today article, the Hawaiian Chili Pepper — also known as the “Bird Pepper” — has a Scoville rating between 10,000 to 20,000 SHU. Which I find hard to believe actually, as I think it’s much higher than that. More like in the 6-digit Habanero and Ghost Pepper Scoville range. They say the smaller the pepper, usually the hotter they are, and Hawaiian Chili Peppers are very tiny, yet pack one hell of a Capsaicin punch!
Let’s try the Liliha Bakery “Nuclear” Jelly English Muffin…
And? Excellent! I don’t know what it is about this otherwise “phony” tasting jelly. It’s so candy-like, you gotta’ love it! I also think that luminescent bright red color has a psychological effect on you while you look at as you’re eating it. Surprisingly that Red Vines like flavor compliments the buttery English Muffin quite nicely.
Now let’s try Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly English Muffin…
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have the winner! Oh man, Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper “Volcanic” Jelly SLAMS Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly clear out the park! Dusted! Done!
The absolute heat from the punchy Hawaiian Chili Peppers, along with that sweet bell pepper flavor immediately hits your taste buds in all the right places, where you’re like, “WOW!, this is so ono!” It’s kinda’ fruity, yet I’d say more “zesty”, where this Jelly would be equally welcome on a pizza. Then you get the buttery English Muffin, along with the fantastic texture of the gritty meal dusted under the muffin, and it’s like “KA-BAM!”.
I should seriously start my own Tasty Island product line called “Mom’s Volcanic Jelly”. Or perhaps “Mom’s Pahoehoe Jelly”. Cha-ching! Seriously though, I’m going to propose to Peter Kim that they start serving this Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly in the coffee shop, and officially name it “Volcanic Jelly”.
By the way, another EXCELLENT way to serve Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly is on crispy artisan crackers spread with cream cheese. Broke da’ mout’ winnahz!
So the verdict is in:
Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly
Taste – 3 SPAM Musubi
Texture – 4 SPAM Musubi
Overall – 3 SPAM Musubi
Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly
Taste – 7 SPAM Musubi
Texture – 3 SPAM Musubi
Overall – 5 SPAM Musubi
I don’t have the recipe for Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly because, well, she doesn’t have one. She just “eyeballs it”. However, here’s one I found from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin archives:
Rachel Tamashiro, left, Sarah Tamashiro and Lauren Leong hold jars of Incredibly Hot Pepper Jelly that were one of the featured items at the St. Andrew Priory bazaar sale. Photo by Dennis Oda, courtesy of StarBulletin.com.
Holiday Fair Hot Pepper Jelly*
Adapted from “Paradise Preserves” by Yvonne Neely Armitage
2 cups red bell peppers chunks
1/4 cup seeded red Hawaiian chili peppers
6-1/2 cups white sugar
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
6 ounces Certo (liquid fruit pectin, sold in boxes of 3-ounce packets)
Grind bell peppers together with chili peppers in a blender, using caution in handling chilis.
Combine sugar and vinegar in large pan and bring to full rolling boil. Remove from burner and let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Add peppers to pan. Return pot to burner and bring to boil again. Continue to cook another 2 minutes, boiling rapidly.
Remove from burner, add pectin and stir for a full 5 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes enough to fill 6 to 7 8-ounce jars.
Note: Other peppers, such as green peppers work equally as well in this recipe.