Monday, August 12, 2013
Homemade Prickly Pear Jelly
What an experience.
I am the definition of a Tucson native. I have lived in Tucson my entire life and have never lived anywhere else. I am a true desert girl. Every summer I saw the prickly pear fruits form and slowly turn a deep red-purple color. I even once smashed one with a rock when playing out in the desert with my sister. We were surprised at the semi-sweet flavor on the inside. I knew they could be made into jelly and always wanted to try. And so, as someone who has lived in Tucson her entire life, it's about time I try to make some jelly!
I will start by saying this was not the easiest of tasks and it requires some devoted attention. Obviously the thorns pose quite a challenge. I read multiple blog entries and articles about how to deal with these pokey things while trying to produce something edible. I had settled on freezing the fruits and then thawing them another day since the juices were supposed to just ooze out when thawing. (I recommend this if you want to do the minimal amount of work possible.) But I was interested in the actual fruit and somehow turning that pulp into jelly.
So, after I cut a pear (aka. a tuna!...huh?) in half (for the heck of it and to taste the insides) and so easily removed the purple fruit from inside with a spoon... I decided to do go about it a bit differently. I was glad I could now incorporate the fleshy inside and not just extract the juices through the freezing method.
And so I spooned out every center of those tunas. It was difficult at times to avoid the thorns, but the spoon worked great! I put all of the spooned out fruit in a bowl. Next, I ran the contents of the bowl through a food processor. And OH what a mess. I recommend adding a little big of juice/fruit at a time and blending. (Food processors do not seal completely.)
Once I had blended up all of the chunks and seeds, I poured the liquid into a really nifty filtering device.
Since I was not wanting to make a special run to the store for cheesecloth, I used a piece of (clean) fabric from a t-shirt. I fashioned it on to the top of a yogurt container with a rubber band and made sure to create a little dip in the fabric for liquid to pool.
The prickly pear juice did not filter through without a fight. Stirring it with a spoon helped some, but it required some manual squeezing in the end to get all of that good juice out from the pulp and seeds. I somehow managed to get about 4 cups of beautifully pinky-red juice. This was just what I needed for my recipe.
I then poured all of the juice into a big pot and added the sugar (which I halved and then halved again....you know me), lemon juice, lemon rind, and pectin. And away we went!
I got the juice boiling and walked out of the kitchen to bring in some towels I had been drying outside. When I came back in, the pot had boiled over and my stove top was now pink. This, I must embarrassingly admit, happened yet again during the boiling process. Good grief. No wonder you should start with 4 cups. You loose 2 cups in the boiling process. Ha!
After about an hour and 15 minutes of simmering and boiling, I decided to pour my mixture into some cleaned jars so I could share my masterpiece with friends and family. (I knew I was about ready to pour since the liquid solidified into a nice jelly on a cool spoon.)
The final product was excellent! I only wish it had stayed that brilliant pinky-red color as it had started off. I almost want to say it was a bit too sweet, but I know many would disagree. If I were to do this again, I'd cut the sugar in half another time. I really want to be able to taste the subtle watermelon-strawberry flavor of the fruit even more.
Oh yeah... and I wouldn't let it boil over...twice. Maybe then I'd be left with a little more jelly :)
And special thanks to my Ted who helped me pick the fruits and hold the spiky things while I scooped out the centers.
4 cups of prickly pear juice (about 4 pounds of prickly pear fruit)
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon rind grated
3 1/2 Tbsp pectin powder (I used the low sugar kind)