A Saltine cracker with a smidgen of cream cheese, topped with a spoon of cowboy candy - this must be one of the tastiest appetizers mankind has invented. It's sweet and hot, but not too hot to turn away most eaters. My kids love it. Open a jar at a party - it will be gone in the blink of an eye. It's that good.
What is cowboy candy?
Cowboy candy, aka candied jalapeños, in essence, is sliced jalapeno peppers that are simmered in a sweet pickling brine consisting of sugar, honey, apple cider vinegar, and seasonings such as garlic powder, turmeric, and chili powder.
About my cowboy candy recipe
There are many variations of this dish. Some prefer to use only jalapeno peppers, while others like to mix in other peppers. Banana peppers seem to be a very popular option, and I like adding them too. Mixing hot jalapenos and sweet banana peppers makes this dish more palatable for a wider audience. My kids love it and don't find the dish too hot. It's very pleasantly hot.
In my cowboy candy recipe, I like dicing my peppers instead of slicing them. Diced cowboy candy seems easier to spoon, and they stay on top of crackers more easily. There are no other differences between the two variations. Pick the one that you personally like.
I also like adding some kosher salt to the sweet brine. This isn't something you will normally see in other candied jalapeno or cowboy candy recipes, but I always add salt. The simple reason is that it brings balance to the taste. Trust me, a little bit of salt makes the very sweet brine taste not so sweet. It improves the taste. This is why flakes of Maldon salt are added to sweet caramel - to balance out the sweetness.
Making cowboy candy
Start with making the pickling brine. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat and let the brine simmer for 5 minutes. This will allow the brine to thicken a bit, darken and develop a complex flavor.
While the brine is simmering, rinse, then slice or dice your jalapenos and banana peppers. Do not net remove the membranes and the seeds from the peppers. You want them in; otherwise, your cowboy candy will have no heat. Trust me, you need that heat. Once the peppers simmer in the brine for 5 minutes, much of that heat will go away.
Next, simmer the chopped or sliced peppers in the brine for 5 minutes. This will remove some of the heat and harshness from jalapenos, making them taste just perfect.
That's it. Your cowboy candy is done.
Canning and storing cowboy candy
Canning cowboy candy is optional. Transfer the prepared peppers to a clean jar, cover with a tight lid, let them cool down to room temperature, and refrigerate for up to 3 months or longer.
If you do want to can cowboy candy, transfer the peppers with the hot liquid to sterilized pint or half-pint jars, leaving a 1/2" headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a clean damp paper towel. Put on lids, tighten the bands finger-tight, and process in a boiling-water canner according to the table below.
|at Altitudes of
|0 - 1,000 ft
|1,001 - 6,000 ft
|above 6,000 ft
|pint or half-pint
Saltine crackers with some cream cheese, a spoonful of cowboy candy on top - that's how I like eating mine. Any crackers will do, but Saltine crackers are the best. They have just the right texture, soft crunch, and saltiness to complement the sweetness and soft texture of candied jalapenos.
Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapeno Peppers)
- 1 lb jalapeno peppers sliced or diced
- 1 lb sweet banana peppers sliced or diced
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Ancho chile powder or regular chili powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Combine vinegar, sugar, honey, and spices in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until syrup thickens a little, about 5 minutes.
- Add the peppers and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer the peppers with the hot liquid to sterilized jars, leaving a 1/2" headspace. Process in a boiling-water canner according to the table above or cover with a tight lid, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for up to 3 months.