Vivian Howard’s Tabasco Jelly Thumbprint Cookies

Tabasco Cookies 1
Photo by Brandall Atkinson

Tabasco Jelly Thumbprint Cookies

Vivian Howard, Chef and the Farmer, Kinston, NC

Vivian Howard developed these savory cookies for the Tabasco luncheon at the 2013 Southern Foodways Symposium.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups smoked gouda, shredded, at room temperature

Tabasco Jelly (recipe below)

Sift the dry ingredients. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and cheese well. Slowly add the dry ingredients and continue to paddle until nice and fluffy; about 3 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a piping bag, pipe about 2 tsp. of the cookie dough onto a nonstick baking surface. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the center of each round. (You may want to have a little flour on hand to prevent your thumb from sticking.) Pipe or spoon about 1 tsp. Tabasco jelly into each indentation. Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom.

Yields approximately 5 dozen small cookies.

Tabasco Cookies 2
Photo by Brandall Atkinson

Tabasco Jelly

10 lbs. apples of your choice (If you can find slightly unripe apples, use 5 lbs. ripe and 5 lbs. unripe, as unripe apples have more pectin)

8 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 – 1/3 cup Tabasco brand Original Red Sauce, depending on your preference for heat

Roughly chop the apples. Include everything—the stems, core, seeds, and skin are all important for pectin. Place the apples in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring the apples up to a boil and cook 10–20 minutes, until they are soft but not falling to pieces. Drain the water off quickly.

Place the apples in a colander lined with cheesecloth, and place the colander inside a larger bowl to catch the liquid that drains off. This liquid will be the “meat” of your jelly, so allow it to drain overnight for best results. You should be left with roughly 9–10 cups thickish apple nectar. (If you have more, it’s not a problem; you will just have to increase cooking time.)

Place a small plate in the freezer for testing your jelly. Transfer the apple liquid and the sugar to a heavy-bottomed pot and bring it up to a boil. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes. Check where you are by spooning a little of the jelly onto your super cold plate. If it firms up and wrinkles when you nudge it, you’re good to go. If not, cook it longer, testing every ten minutes or so.

Once you’ve reached the desired set, stir in the lemon juice and the Tabasco Sauce. The jelly should be a beautiful amber color and should be completely clear. Taste and adjust with more of either. Transfer to a container to chill.

In addition to using the Tabasco jelly in these cookies, it would be great served with goat cheese and crackers, or as a glaze over pork chops or ham, or as a sauce for chicken wings. It’s very versatile.