Prickly Pear Jelly – When Life Gives You Prickly Pears, Make Jelly!

by Donna on August 31, 2011

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Homemade Prickly Pear Fruit Jelly

At the height of summer in the desert just at the time when you can fry and egg on the sidewalk, when you are sick, sick, sick of feeling like you live in a giant blow dryer, something wonderful happens: prickly pears appear.

I love to visit my mom, for many reasons of course, but when I go to Tucson in August, sometimes I get a bonus – I get to make prickly pear jelly.

Prickly pears in August are filled with tart red nectar similar to pomegranates, but here’s the thing: they’re FREE. All you do is take some tongs out to your nearest cactus plants and harvest the juicy bounty.

Years ago, I sweated all day burning and plucking off the prickles. Not now. I just pick them, chop them, boil them and then strain off the juice in a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Much easier. All you do is follow the directions for apple jelly on the box of pectin. Substitute 1 cup of prickly pear juice and one teaspoon lemon juice for each cup of apple juice in the recipe. That’s it. Really.

The best part of making jelly is at the end of the day when my counters are stacked with jars filled with liquid just beginning to gel. Such a feeling of pride and accomplishment fills my heart. And, I know I have Christmas presents galore stashed away in my cupboards. Who doesn’t love homemade jelly for Christmas?

A few other adventurous food bloggers have had adventures with prickly pears. I thought I would only find Prickly Pear Margaritas like the one at The Daily Meal. Oh No. There’s lots of adventurous stuff out there in the bloogsphere! Hank of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook made prickly pear syrup that sounds amazing on a stack of pancakes. I found prickly pear snow cones over at Bluebonnets and Brownies. Did you know prickly pears are uber healthy? I found out at Nutrition Unplugged. Prickly pear Chiffon Cake? Why Not? Check out My Kitchen Snippets. Scrumptious South Africa made Prickly Pear Granita that looks so refreshing.

What can YOU come up with in prickly pear form?

Happy End of Summer, Everyone!

– posted by Donna

 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan September 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

This looks so tangy and yum. Can I come over for breakfast?

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Donna September 2, 2011 at 9:12 am

Thanks Megan – this jelly is so much fun to make!

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jack sekgobela January 6, 2012 at 6:34 am

South Africa has abundance of prickly pears and r want to set up a factory to process them inot jam which r will sell here in SA. whats the recipe?

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Gail Gardner August 1, 2012 at 9:29 am

Prickly pear will probably grow most places and is easily planted. Just take the green “leaves” / “pads” and stick the end that was attached to the plant into the ground. Cacti and succulents are both easily started from one piece of an existing plant. But use tools or thick gloves because the tiny thorns are really hard to see – and remove from you!

Plant them where no one is likely to get into the thorns or even use them as a border to discourage intrusions. I have found the plants growing under trees and near roads where more water runs off grow larger and have ripe fruit earlier in the year so they DO like water – but not nearly as much water as a typical house plant.

$3 a piece? Maybe I should collect and sell them! I picked a big bag full yesterday to eat. Instead of peeling them the way most videos and this post suggest, I just cut off the narrow end (where they attach to the plant) because it has many tiny thorns, then cut the fruit in half (hold it with tongues) and use a spoon to scoop out the fruit and put it in a glass jar. (The juice is likely to stain most surfaces except glass.)

I do a cup full or so at a time, drop them into a one cup measuring cup, and put them in the refrigerator so I can enjoy a couple pieces throughout the day.

The best fruit grows in areas where the soil gets replenished with minerals either by flooding or from the leaves of trees. The fruit I ate that grew under tall trees in an overgrown area was much sweeter than the fruit from a plant of about the same size growing under a single tree near a paved road.

If you live on an “overgrown” property that has a pond with fish, mesquite for beans and flour, prickly pear and you get a few chickens you will be living with a food supply you can use. You may get tired of fish and eggs, but you will be healthier than those eating store-bought “food” and at least you won’t go hungry.

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Sandy August 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Hi Gail, Thank you so much for all of these tips on growing and using prickly pears! I think people are sometimes intimidated by the thorns and don’t realize what a great food source they are. In the “olden days” we used to burn the thorns off over an open flame, I like your way much better.

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