Monday, September 8, 2008

Making Prickly Pear Jelly

A few weeks ago my friends and I picked prickly pears in the Sonoran Desert. We processed the fruit into juice which we then stored in bottles in the refrigerator for a week or two. Click on the highlighted link to read about Picking and Processing Prickly Pears. Finally the day came when we could get together and make this jewel-like jelly. My friend, Liz, brought her jelly jars and sugar and we began.
Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly recipe:

2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice
1 box pectin (Sure-jell or Certo)
1-3 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
3 1/2 cups sugar

First we assemble all the ingredients on the counter. Since we are making multiple batches we pre-measure the sugar into bowls and place a package of pectin with each one. We leave the lemon juice by the stove with a Tablespoon to make measuring and adding the lemon juice easier.

To make the jelly you will need jelly jars, lids, and bands.

A 6 to 8-quart pot to boil the jelly in.

A small pot to sterilize the lids.

Wash jars, bands and lids. I like to wash my jars and bands in the dishwasher, then keep them there to stay warm until I fill them. I wash the lids and keep them in the dish drainer until it's time to place them in the small pot. This pot I fill about half full. Bring to a boil, then shut off and place lids in scalding water. Do Not boil lids. I have also found you do not want to just leave the lids sitting in this water or they will start to rust, so I only place as many as I think I am going to use in the water while the jelly is boiling.

Pour 2 1/2 cups of prickly pear juice into a large pot. Add powdered pectin and bring to a fast boil stirring constantly.

Add sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of butter (if desired to prevent excessive foaming). Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a hard boil and boil for three minutes. (Do not stir constantly at this point.)


Remove from heat and skim off foam. Pour into sterilized jars filling to 1/8 inch from top. Wipe jar rims and threads. Seal with lids and bands. When you have enough jars, place in boiling water bath and process for 5 minutes at a gentle boil. Adjust for altitude according to directions included in pectin box.

Since we are making numerous batches of jelly, we have more than one pot for boiling jelly in. One of us would measure and mix juice and pectin and mind the jelly while the other would skim off jelly and fill jars. Here Liz pre-measures the juice for the next batch.


Water bath canner, boiling jelly, and pot with lids all on the same stove top. In mid August it sure gets hot in the house!


The jars go onto a rack and are lowered into the pot. Make sure the water is 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Add boiling water as necessary to maintain this level. When timing is up, lift jars from water-bath with rack.

Place on towel to cool. Separate jars to speed cooling process. Do not over tighten bands.

Here are some tips we learned from making jelly this year:

By processing the juice on one day and letting it cool and settle before we made jelly it allowed more sediment to sink to the bottom of the jugs. When we made our jelly we didn't shake up the juice, but poured carefully from the top, leaving the sediment behind. This gave us a clear, jewel-like jelly.

When making multiple batches of jelly, wash pots between each batch and do not stir down crystals from sides of pot or you will end up with more floaters when you go to skim off the foam.

The jelly recipe above will yield approximately 2 pint jars or 4-8 ounce jars of jelly.

For large batches this is the ratio we figured out: 3 gallons of raw prickly pears yields 1 gallon of juice. It takes 1 gallon of juice plus 10 pounds of sugar to yield 1 dozen pint jars or 2 dozen 8 ounce jars of jelly.

If time is an issue, the juice can be processed and frozen for preparation at a later date. Thaw before using.


Happy Jelly making. Now go find some "tunas" and try this for yourself.


Photographer's note: All of today's photography is copyrighted by Kathiesbirds. I used the Nikon D80 with the 18 to 70 mm lens. Click on any photo to enlarge for better viewing.

15 comments:

Deborah Godin said...

Beautiful garnet color! Got toast?

Kathiesbirds said...

Deborah, Yep! And tea too!

kjpweb said...

Our Prickly Pears are tiny - you would need a gazillion to get some yield. :(

But yours truly looks enticing!
Cheers, Klaus

TSannie said...

Beautiful! Bet it tastes as good as it looks! No prickly pears up here in CT - I'll have to "taste" vicariously!

zhakee said...

Your jelly looks deliciously red! I haven't made jelly in years, your images make me remember how time consuming it was.

Mary C said...

Your post, especially the photos brought back memories from when I used to make plum jam back in the late '70s and early '80s. It looks like you had fun. It's always better when there's more than one person doing it.

The Texican said...

Thanks Kathie. Bebe has been wanting a good receipe for Prickly Pear jelly. I'll send her over later for a look-see. Pappy

Doug Taron said...

I can vouch for the fact that it's really tasty.

Beth said...

oh Kathie, that looks so good. What fun to share the event with your friends. Just looking at that jelly makes me wish that we had prickly pears in Maine--but alas, just blueberries.

Kathryn and Ari said...

How fabulous! I brought back some prickly pear jelly on my last trip to AZ: we absolutely savored it. Let me know if you're ever interested in a jam/jelly trade: I'd be happy to swap for some raspberry or blueberry jam.

Tabib said...

Hi Kathie!

Red, look so tasty.
Yummy!

Gallicissa said...

Wondeful! Thanks for sharing this.

Kathiesbirds said...

Klaus, you never know! Give it a try!

TSAnnie, nice to see you again! Word of advice: Don't lick the computer screen!

zhakee, it really wasn't so bad. We proceesed all the fruit on one day in about 4 hours and the jelly took an equal amount of time on another day but with 2 of us working we processed 2 dozen 1/2 pints and 1 dozen pint jars in that amount of time!

Mary, it is not only quicker but much more fun.

Pappy, let me know if it turns out. Good luck!

Doug, I'm smiling!

Beth, blueberries are nothing to gripe about. I happen to love them and we pay a premium for them here!

Kathyrn, we may have to talk. I love blueberries. Do you make your own jam?

tabib, hello! Red is very tasty!

Gallicissa, thanks for stopping by. It's always nice to see you.

Shellmo said...

Wow - this was a timely post for me to read - thank you for the tips! I'm getting ready to can some blackberry jam this weekend ( have it posted on my log cabin blog - www.logcabininmichigan.blogspot.com) -

2sweetnsaxy said...

I've never make jelly before. This looks wonderful and looks like fun. Maybe one of these days.... :-)