We went from 80s and sunny to 50s and rain in a week flat and suddenly fall is here. The days are getting shorter and Christmas is now somehow only two months away. I had gotten off to a good start on making presents back in July but then life got extra busy and I hadn’t done much for a few months. 

Lucky for me, I have a few other friends who really like canning and pickling as well, and one invited me over a few weeks ago for a weekend specifically for processing a ton of apples from her father’s trees. Since we were already set to be in the kitchen all weekend, I picked up a bunch of jalapeños from the farmers market to make pepper jelly and candied jalapeños for Christmas presents. 

Candied jalapeños, or cowboy candy as its sometimes called, is a really fast, easy way to enjoy peppers out of season. The canning process calms the heat and sweetens them up, so they can be enjoyed by those who don’t like really spicy food. 

I discovered this recipe years ago when I had overestimated how many jalapeños I needed to make pepper jelly and needed a quick way to preserve the rest of them. As it turns out, cowboy candy has become our family’s favorite canned food hands down, probably because we eat a lot of tacos. 

So pretty and colorful!

Since these are going to be Christmas presents, I bought both red and green jalapeños to make the jars more festive. I’m not what would be considered crafty, but home canned gifts can be made to look really nice and festive without having any kind of skills in the creative department. 

Each year, I buy some holiday themed fabric and cut it into squares. If you have the time and want to put in the effort, you can sew the edges to make a more “professional” looking gift. Honestly though, the people I give these to are more interested in the tasty food itself, not the pretty wrapping. 

I then drape the squares over the canning jar and screw the lid on top. With very little time and no skills necessary, I have a pretty gift that doesn’t even need to be wrapped. 

While most of the jars will be given away as presents, we will keep a few for ourselves. They are quite tasty on tacos, especially in the winter when there aren’t any fresh peppers to pick straight from the garden. They are really just good in any recipe that calls for peppers, like this easy beef and pepper skillet dinner

If you want to can some peppers yourself, the recipe comes from Tasty Kitchen, but here’s a quick summary:


  • 3 LB jalapeños (1/2 red, 1/2 green)
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1/2 TSP tumeric
  • 1/2 TSP celery seed
  • 3 TSP Garlic
  • 1 TSP cayenne pepper 


  1. Chop jalapeños* into rounds and set aside. 
  2. Mix all ingredients except jalapeños and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add jalapeños and simmer for another 5 minutes. 
  4. Water bath can (10 minutes for half pints, 15 minutes for pints). 

*When chopping peppers, make sure to wear gloves! I learned the hard way – very slowly and over multiple times – that homegrown or farmers market jalapeños are quite a bit spicier than the grocery store variety and they leave residue that doesn’t wash off easily with soap. 

When you go to take out your contacts that night, your eyes will BURN. And then you may as well toss them and get a new pair for the morning otherwise your eyes will burn once again the next day. Like I said, just wear gloves and please learn from my very painful mistakes. 

Note the gloves while showing off the odd looking pepper

A final note. If you have never canned before, I highly recommend a copy of the the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Since the jars are not refrigerated, proper canning methods are extremely important to make sure the gifts you share are safe to eat. 

I know there are a lot of people who are into home canning use less specific recipes and processes, citing that they’ve “always done it that way and nobody died,” but it’s something you really shouldn’t mess around with. 

Follow reputable canning recipes and don’t adjust ingredients unless you can be sure the preservatives are correct for long term room temperature storage. 

Erica at NW Edible also has a great infographic on how not to die from botulism that is worth checking out. Above all, if you do any home canning, do your research and make sure your food is safe. It’s just not worth taking the chance. 

And if you really aren’t comfortable with trying your hand at canning, homegrown garlic and spice mixes are also wonderful gifts that are appreciated in my family, and take no cooking at all. 

16 thoughts on “Homemade Christmas Presents: Candied Jalapeños 

    1. That’s the great thing about making things yourself – you can adjust the spice to your liking! These really aren’t very hot, but you could tone them down even more by using a milder pepper.

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