Friday, September 25, 2009

How To Make Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly Part 2

The first post told how to find and gather the ripe prickly pears. You might want to refer back to it if you just arrived. This post is part 2: making the juice. Part 3 will explain how to make the jelly.

Preparing the prickly pears: I always singe (pronounced "sinj") the pears before I do anything with them. This helps assure that all those spines are gone. If you have a gas stove, you can do this over a burner. Otherwise, rev up the grill and do it there. You need flames to burn off the spines.

Hold each pear by tongs or a long fork and hold especially the blossom end into the fire, until it stops sparking, then turn and flame the other side, until all sides and top and bottom have been singed. Don't worry about overdoing it - for some reason the skins just never char, so you can keep them in the fire quite a long time if necessary. Set aside into a bowl and flame the next one until all are done.

Next, get a cutting board, sharp knife, your gloves, and tongs or a fork.

They can be eaten raw and you might like the flavor. To eat them that way, singe them and cut off the ends. Using a paring knife, hold the pear with a fork and cut away the peeling and discard. Then, cut the peeled pear in half and, with a spoon, scoop out the seeds - they are
hard and inedible. What is left is tasty raw fruit! You could prepare them this way, then candy them if you like, but I always make jelly.

To make juice so you can make jelly, there is no need to peel them nor to remove the seeds. Just cut the pear into 2 or 3 pieces and drop into a large cooking pot.

When they are all in the pot, add water until the pears are completely covered and an inch or two under water, depending on how many pears you have and how strong you want your juice.

Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about half an hour. This will give you the juice for your jelly. Strain it into a pot or pitcher, and discard the pulp of the pears (which will have lost their color into the water).

If you need more juice, and there is still a lot of color in the pears, you can add a little more fresh water to them and simmer again to get the last of the flavor from them. (The photo above shows the pears before they have been cooked. The juice is a much richer magenta color after cooking).

You can either make jelly right away or freeze the juice to use later.

Monday's post will have the jelly recipe.

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