Country-Style Chili Sauce With Hot Peppers

2 quarts skinned, cored and coarsely chopped, ripe Italian-style (plum) tomatoes (about 4 pounds)
2 cups finely chopped seeded, cored and deribbed sweet red peppers
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 large rib celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 fresh, long red or green pepper (about 5 inches), stemmed, seeded, deribbed and very finely chopped (optional)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling salt or other fine noniodized salt
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed

Ground red, hot (cayenne) pepper or hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)

Wash 7 half-pint jars (or a mixture of half-pint and pint jars); keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.

Combine the tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, celery, hot pepper, garlic, vinegar, salt, sugar and corn syrup in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower heat and simmer briskly, uncovered, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Stir in the cloves, cinnamon and mustard seed. Continue to cook sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened enough to release scarcely any thin liquid when a spoonful is placed on a plate and tilted; this final cooking should take from 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste sauce and add, if desired, a little more vinegar or sweetening or salt; if you would like a hotter sauce, add a little ground red pepper or a few drops of Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce. If chili sauce is too thin after seasonings are adjusted, cook it a little longer.

For long-term storage at room temperature, ladle hot sauce into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process half-pints or pints in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes (for 20 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; for 25 minutes above 6000 feet).

For storage in refrigerator: simply fill clean jars with hot relish, attach lids, let cool and then refrigerate. Will keep in refrigerator for several months. Makes about 6 to 7 cups.

— Recipe adapted from "Fancy Pantry," by Helen Witty.

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