THIS JELLY, based on Tabasco pepper sauce, is as colorful and warming as a crackling fire. It's simple to make and is splendid on toast; on a cracker, or better yet a bagel, with cream cheese; with game and other meats (especially in place of ugh mint jelly with lamb); and in many sauces. It makes the white meat of a roast turkey edible, and has disturbing implications for the PB&J sandwich.

Because the essence of Tabasco sauce lies not in its fire but in its fruity flavors and aroma, this recipe will fall flat if other pepper sauces are subsituted.

INGREDIENTS

4 cups apple cider (or plain apple juice)

1 cup cranberry cocktail (for color)

2 to 4 oz. lime juice (the bottled stuff works fine)

7 cups sugar

1 package powdered fruit pectin

1 to 2 oz. of Tabasco sauce, according to taste (1 oz. is pretty hot; 2 oz. is awful hot); use 2 oz. lime juice to each ounce of Tabasco. Yield: about nine cups, which would be a lifetime supply except that just about everyone will beg a jar to take home.

DIRECTIONS

I don't care how your Mama used to do it, forget wax- sealed jelly glasses; use 1-cup Mason-type jelly jars with vacuum-seal lids. Set the lids to simmering in a saucepan; wash and scald the jars (or leave them in the dishwasher).

Use an 8-quart or larger pot, because when jelly boils, it foams up with a vengeance. Bring the apple cider, lime juice and pectin to a hard boil (can't be stirred down) and stir in the sugar. Watch closely and stir often as it works toward a second hard boil. Add the Tabasco as the second boil comes on; boil for one minute and remove from stove.

Put the pot in the sink while you set up the jars on the counter, then skim off the solidified foam that will have formed. Pour the jelly into a quart Pyrex measuring cup and then into the jelly jars, because if you try to ladle it, or to pour from the pot, you'll make a mess and probably burn the hell out of yourself. Fill the jars to just below the rim and put the lids on with kitchen tongs. Add the screw caps and set the jars aside to jell.

Store in a dark place. Sunlight bleaches the lovely color from Tabasco, although that doesn't affect the taste. Speaking of which, while this jelly is delightful from the moment it sets, it improves in flavor for at least a year.