Monday, August 2, 2010

Prickly Pear Juice

Ah, yes. Another gorgeous day here in the Texas desert. No, no, I won't bore you with another introspective about clouds and pee-sychology basic elements.

But they sure are pretty clouds, no?

Today I will be talking ad nauseum about harvesting and making prickly pear juice. Remember me telling you about the prickly pear fruit being in season? From what I hear, you can make pretty durn good jelly from the juice of the prickly pear "tuna", and from personal experience, the juice also makes one fine margarita!


So one fine afternoon, we loaded the kids up in the trusty "Burban", and headed off to an undisclosed location to harvest some fruit.

(Even after cursory searching of the internet, we, I mean I, were still unsure about the laws concerning harvesting prickly pear, so to keep things ambiguous the exact location of our hunt will remain anonymous.)

Paige and Josh were eager to help pluck the gorgeous purple fruit off of the cactus. (Notice the tennis shoes! Still no jeans, but it's 100 degrees outside!)

We were instructed to use tongs to safely remove the fruit.

Again, Jerry is learning that I might be useful after all. Is he still questioning why I brought grilling tongs with us to temporary housing? Nope. You just never know...

...especially with us "air" people, being all lofty and stuff.

In order to render 2 cups of juice, we needed approximately 30 fruit. Yeesh. As much fun (not) as it was to watch the kids fight over who had the tongs and who had the bag, Jerry finally took over and made quick work of deflowering an unsuspecting cactus.

Of course he left the lowest fruit in place for all of the wildlife to eat. (But really, there are a billion of these cactus around here full of fruit. Who would eat them anyway?)

We got the fruit home in our trusty H-E-B reusable shopping bag*, and after putting the kids to bed seven hours later, we got to work on the juicing procedure.

*I would not recommend using a mesh or similar type bag to transport prickly pear fruit. The little barbs, aka glochids, go right through and will end up all over the floorboards of your car and in your house. Remember the glochid I had in my toe for a week? Yep. An H-E-B bag escape.)

Once in the sink, run them under water and give them a good scrubbing with a long handled scrubby sponge. (I apologize. I had a very energetic photo of me giving the fruit a good pummeling in the sink with the sponge but it must have gotten deleted off of my camera.)

Once you have the fruit cleaned, there are different steps you can take to render their juice.

Jerry opted for the one that required us to buy the food chopper he's been nagging me to buy for the past few years.

Men and their toys, I tell ya.

For this procedure you take a paring knife and carefully remove the skin off of the fruit. I chopped off the ends and stood it up on the fat bottom, and with downward slices removed the skin one section at a time.

The fruit looks all cool here, and the color is fantabulous, but the fruit is really full of dark seeds. Like a pomegranate. You buy one from the store for curiosities sake, and when you open it at home you think, "What the heck? How am I supposed to eat that?"

Once you have a bunch of the peeled fruit in the blending contraption of choice, blend it up until juicy.

Look at that color. It's the exact shade of magenta I want to dye the lower third layer of my hair but haven't yet because I'm too chicken.

Next, poor the slop into a double layer of cheesecloth, or for those who are living in temporary lodging facilities in the middle of nowhere and can't find cheesecloth to save their lives, a clean dish towel will do the trick, too.

Then, squeeze the cheesecloth* like you're really mad at it to extract the juice, leaving the bits and seeds behind in the cloth.

*If you must use a dish towel, make sure you have a really large, buff, and strong man nearby to help you squeeze the juice out. If not, forget about it. You won't get a drop.

Next you...

...will have to wait until a future post! I don't want to give away all of my secrets on one post!

Until later!

P.S. If you receive a jar of prickly pear jelly, juice, or salsa from us for Christmas, don't be grossed out by the resident spider of the prickly pear we harvested. It's only slightly poisonous and a mere two inches long. Bon appetite!