As a kid, I didn’t know that the pretty red fruit on a cactus were edible, and I’m not even sure I would have been willing to try one, but as an adult, I’ve learned otherwise, and I’m willing to try just about any food on the planet. Well, maybe. I’m still not interested in eating bugs.
Anyway, prickly pears are completely edible, delicious, and quite pretty.
So, what does a prickly pear (cactus fruit) taste like? To ME, a prickly pear tastes like a cross between bubble gum and watermelon. They’re super sweet and pair quite well with something more sour. Prickly pear lemonade is amazing, and so is a prickly pear margarita.
Today, however, I’m turning my prickly pears into jelly. The pomegranate colored juice is going to be absolutely beautiful as a jelly.
Prepping the Fruit and Making Juice
To begin, you’ll need to prep your fruit. Begin by peeling off the waxy skin and removing the stem end. Roughly chop the fruit, leaving the seeds, and place in a large soup or stock pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about an hour. If the water boils off, just add more. By the end of the hour, your prickly pears will have broken down and left you with a tasty, fuchsia-pink colored juice. Strain the seeds and any remaining pulp.
Before Making the Jelly
One of the first things to know before making prickly pear jelly is that they have little to no naturally occurring pectin, so to make the jelly set up, you must add pectin. If you don’t you’ll be left with a great prickly pear pancake syrup. Likewise, you will also have to add lemon juice to raise the acidity to a safe level to can your prickly pear jelly. In fact, you’ll need to add roughly a 1/2 c. lemon juice to every cup of prickly pear juice.
Making the Jelly
Sugar: Even though the prickly pear by itself is a sweet fruit, you’ll need to add sugar. For my recipe, which begins with 7 cups of fruit, I add a considerable amount of sugar to the juice–7 cups of sugar.
Pectin: Since the prickly pear has no pectin, you’ll also need to add a considerable amount of pectin. For my batch of juice, I used 2 whole boxes of powdered pectin.
- 5 c. prickly pear juice (approximately 14 prickly pears cooked down with 5 cups of water)
- 2 1/2 c. lemon juice
- 7 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 boxes powdered pectin
- Peel and chop approximately 14 prickly pears and cover with 5 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.
- Mash fruit with a potato masher.
- Strain seeds and pulp.
- Bring prickly pear juice, lemon juice, and pectin to a boil.
- Add sugar and return to to a rolling boil.
- Boil for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and skim off any bubbles (foam).
- Pour into prepared jars, and seal with lids and rings.
- Hot water (boiling) process for 10 minutes.