Friday, September 3, 2010

How to Make Prickly Pear Jelly the Right Way

Do you remember when I made prickly pear juice a few weeks ago and left you in suspense about what to do with it?

Well, if you followed those directions then please throw the juice away, pour it down the drain, whatever, but just get rid of it. It will be gross.

Then go out and try it this way:

OK, the trick to picking ripe prickly pears is to wait until the end of August or so and keep an eye on the cactus. When the fruit starts falling off from being too ripe it's time to harvest.

The type of prickly pear we have here produce dark purple/magenta fruit, the darker the sweeter the better.

Use tongs and put a bunch into a pail or bucket. We picked about 50 or so. They should be dark and slightly soft and easy to pull off of the pads.

Watch out. They hurt!

I picked the ones on the bottom while Jerry could reach the fat juicy ones buried deep within the cactus.

It's fun harvesting the tuna!

But what the heck are those! Where did those wrinkles around my eyes come from? OMG. I should always wear make-up and sunglasses.

Sorry. I digress.

Once you get the fruit home, give them a good rinse in the sink to remove the dirt and mystery bits. I had a spider pop out at me while doing this step.

I screamed and Jerry laughed at me.

Still using the tongs, grasp each fruit and with a really sharp knife slice the fruit length-wise.

This is what it looks like inside. I would say this fruit isn't ripe enough to use yet. The best ones are deep, deep red, like dried up blood. (I have made future batches with the ripest fruit only. So, so pretty!)

Put an inch or so of water in a big pot and add the fruit. Bring to a boil over high heat pushing the fruit down into the water with a spoon or masher.

Boil and smash the fruit for thirty minutes. The little glochids on the fruit will dissolve in the hot water.

Yes, they really, really will.

Next, gently pour the mashed pears into a cheese-cloth lined container to separate the juice from the bits.

Like my zip ties I used to secure the cheese-cloth? Yep, in-camper improvisation.

Let the juice drain on it's own. It can take a few hours to get the maximum amount of juice. Don't be tempted to squeeze extra juice out because it will break down the natural pectin in the juice.

Doesn't this kind of look like a heart?

Once you have the juice, you can store it in the fridge and use it in drinks or other recipes. Or you can (try) to make prickly pear jelly.

In the boxes of pectin there were instructions for making jams and jellies of common things like grapes or blackberries. Can you believe they didn't have instructions for prickly pear?

So I winged it.

Over high heat stir in one box of pectin per three cups of juice, stirring constantly.

When it's boiling like crazy add the sugar. Use one more cup of sugar than you have cups of juice. I had about 6 cups of juice so I used 7 cups of sugar.

Stir constantly until it boils again and keep stirring and boiling for one minute.

(Make sure you have your jars clean and ready for the juice.)

Remove from heat and carefully pour the jelly-to-be into jars. It will be messy.

Leave about a quarter of an inch at the top of the jelly so it has room to expand.

Oh, and make sure you spill as much sugar as you can so you are guaranteed to get ants in your camper.

Clean the rims of the jars and then add lids and bands. Don't tighten the bands too tight or the jars can crack while processing them.

Put the sealed jars into a pot of water and bring to a boil. Leave in the boiling water for 10 minutes to kill germs and seal the jars.

Carefully remove the jars from the water and wait to hear the POP of the jars sealing. When the jars are properly sealed you won't be able to push the center dot up and down. The dot should be stuck down.

Wait a few hours or a few days to see if it jells. If not follow the remaking directions in the packet of pectin.

It will work.

If they do jell you will have a batch of some very interesting tasting jelly. Jerry and his parents really like it. Me, not so much. It's not bad, it's just different.

Want to try some?

Leave me a comment and I'll arrange to get one for you to try! (Limit 6 free jars.)

If you're brave enough!!!