Prickly Pear Jelly – A Southwest Staple Food

Source: aneyefortexas Prickly Pears
It’s the time of the year for picking cactus apples and making cactus apple jelly.

Making do with what you have. The Southwestern parts of the U.S. is not blessed with ample rain fall to have berry and assorted fruit tree crops. So we make do with what we have, prickly pear cactus fruit. Hint: 40 to 50 cactus berries will make about 2 and 1/2 pints of jelly.

Prickly pear cactus fruit are much like a lovely woman, a wonderful sight to behold, but, dangerous if carelessly handled!

Caution: Prickly pear fruit is aptly named. The tiny prickles are pernicious and once they get into your skin you’ll be feeling them for days. Here’s how to collect prickly pear fruit without getting the painful prickles on you. I find that metal salad tongs work well in picking the cactus fruit off of the prickly pear pads.

Use tongs to remove a prickly pear from your collection container. Use the same tongs to hold it over the flame of a gas stove burner. Turn the fruit so that the flame touches it on all sides including the ends. Drop into a bowl and repeat with the next fruit until you’ve done all of the prickly pear fruits. If you don’t have a gas stove, you can use a lighter, or grill the fruits over hot coals or a gas grill.

Cut the ends off of the prickly pear fruits. Use a small sharp knife to peel them. Chop the seedy pulp into small chunks.
Put the chopped prickly pear pulp into a large heavy pot. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until the chunks fall apart and you have a soupy, seedy stew.

Run the simmered prickly pear pulp through a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, pour the cooked pulp a little at a time into a sieve or fine-holed colander. Press the liquid and pulp through with the back of a wooden spoon. Measure the strained prickly pear liquid and any pulp. Return to the large pot you originally cooked the chunks of prickly pears in.

For every cup of prickly pear liquid, add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Also add the peel (including the white, pithy part) of half a lemon for every 2 cups of prickly pear liquid. The lemon peel provides pectin so your jelly will properly gel. You can omit using lemon peels if you use a product like ‘sure gel’.

Fill hot sterilize jars with the prickly pear jelly. Fasten lids and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Alternatively, pour the hot jelly into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. The advantage of this method is that the jelly can be stored in a dark cool pantry shelf until it is ready to be opened for use.

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4 responses to “Prickly Pear Jelly – A Southwest Staple Food

  1. Hi, I am a self-proclaimed “jellist” lol. I like trying new and different flavors to enter at our county fair in NC. We recently went to AZ and saw this jelly. I was wondering is there a brand of juice I could use instead of trying to find pp fruit? I saw the juices offered at nutrition stores but didn’t know if I could use any of those. Thanks!


    • Re: Linda Helms Gray – Thanks for visiting my tiny blog.
      Mmmmm – Prickly pear jelly, I make it for 3 reasons, I like the taste, it’s fairly easy and fool proof and most of all it’s free. I never considered making it from anything except collected PP fruits. I’ll look in to that and post anything that looks like it would work for making PP jelly
      Happy Jelly Breakfast!


  2. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    Pour prickly pear pulp into a pot. Try saying that ten times in a row.


  3. I love the description of how to handle the prickly pears. I bet the finished product tastes good.


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