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What works equally well as a cocktail garnish, sandwich condiment, cupcake topper, and guacamole ingredient? Answer: these candied jalapeños. They only take about 30 minutes to prepare, and will last for at least a month in the fridge.

I looked up several different recipes (which I later learned were all attributable to Rebecca over at Foodie with Family) when I began thinking about making candied jalapeños. The recipe was a great place to start, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

First, they were heavily seasoned with turmeric, granulated garlic, and celery seed (and in one variation dyed with green food coloring!). This gave them a distinctly southwestern feel, whereas I wanted something more south-of-the-border. Second, they called for three pounds of jalapeños, and yielded a staggering nine half-pint jars. I like a little heat as much as the next girl, but three pounds? Nine jars? It would take me a lifetime to eat that many hot peppers.

My first step was to cut the recipe by two thirds. Three jars of candied jalapeños seemed like plenty to me. Next, I eliminated all the added spices except the cayenne pepper, which I think adds a spicy complexity to the basic heat of the jalapeños. (It does make them even hotter though, so you can certainly omit it if you prefer.)

Next, I added a decent amount of fresh lime juice and lime zest. My goal was to create a flavor reminiscent of margaritas, and one that would pair equally well with sweet and savory dishes.

Watch out when you taste these. I popped one in my mouth straight from the jar and my tongue nearly caught fire. They definitely pack a seriously spicy punch. But they are also sweet and citrusy, with a faint saltiness from the cider vinegar.

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The uses for these little guys are endless. Stir them into your favorite chili, add them to scrambled eggs, or use them to top of crackers and creamy cheese. If you process the jars in a hot water bath they will keep for three to six months in the pantry. Otherwise, store them in the fridge for four to six weeks.

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