Friday, August 8, 2008

Picking and Processing Prickly Pears

(Click on photos to enlarge for better view.)

On Tuesday, August 5, my friends Sherri, Liz, and Liz's granddaughter, Sarava, went prickly pear picking. We learned from last year that the weapon of choice for picking the fruit is a pair of tongs. These long-handle barbecue tongs work especially well. Just grab and twist.

Sherri smiles as she picks her first fruit. A hat is always wise to wear in the desert.

Liz joins the picking. Notice her gloves and dark sunglasses.

Some cactus bushes are quite large.

Sarava lends a hand with picking.

We filled 2 buckets and 2 plastic grocery bags with fruit. Here we are setting up to process. The large blue pot will be used to collect juice as it cools.

Tools needed: 3 large pots for boiling the fruit. One of ours was a spaghetti pot with a built in strainer. If you don't have one of these you will need a strainer instead.

One small sieve

1- 2 quart pitcher

1 package of cheese cloth

1 potato masher

We are doing this in a two step process, so today we just processed the juice. We will make the jelly next week. If you plan to do the same,you will need gallon jugs to store the juice in your refrigerator or freezer. The juice can be frozen and made into jelly at a much later date.

Bucket of pears. The blue bucket was also full.

Wash pears in water and place in pot. It is not necessary to try to remove the spines as they will be strained out later. Fill with enough water to come up to edges of top fruit. Do not leave extra fruit sitting in wash water as the juice will start to leach out.

Place on stove and boil for 30 minutes.

Halfway through boiling time mash with masher.

Strain pulp and juice through strainer. Let extra juice drip from pulp. It is okay to mash the fruit once again while it is dripping.

Filter juice minus pulp through cheesecloth covered sieve. This removes the spines that were present on the pears along with any remaining seeds. DO NOT squeeze the cheese cloth as this may force spines through into juice. We used the cheese cloth in 3 layers and cut off a section large enough to fit our sieve as it came out of the package.

Pulp after straining.

Steaming juice.

Here you can see the spines and seeds strained out by the cheese cloth. The strained juice is in the pitcher, the unstrained juice is still in the pot.

We would have 2 pots boiling at once and set the timer for 30 minutes once the water started to boil.

I poured hot juice over ice and mixed it with ginger ale, a refreshing treat! Look at this lovely color!

Three and a half gallons of juice ready to be made into Prickly Pear Jelly next week. We started picking prickly pears at 9:45 a.m. We were done picking by 10:30. We were done processing juice and we had the kitchen cleaned up by 2:30. For each batch of jelly we will need 2 1/2 cups of juice which will yield about 5-8ounce jars. You do the math. We could be at this for a long time!

One word of caution: If you use plastic bags to put your prickly pears in while picking,throw them out immediately when you get home. We did not get any spines in our hands while picking or even washing the fruit, but we did get spines in our hands from touching the plastic bags that some of the pears were in. We kept a pair of tweezers nearby as these tiny spines are very painful! Remove and wash all your clothing afterwards as they may have spines in them also.

Note: All of today's photography is by Kathie with the Nikon D80 using the 18-70mm lens and the 70 to 300mm lens.


kjpweb said...

Very educational! Great job on this post!
Cheers, Klaus

Anonymous said...

I had heard of this jelly but had never seen it. I have to say it looks great!


Deborah Godin said...

You certainly picked a lot of prickly pears! Was it, by any chance, a PECK of prickly pears? You can guess where I'm going with this...

Anonymous said...

What does it taste like, Kathie? It looks kind of like cranberries in the juice process. We had prickly pear in Oklahoma, but the plants were about 1/100th the size of the one you show in the photo.

DeniseinVA said...

Wow, that's quite a process and I found it extremely interesting step by step. I also wonder what it tastes like anything I have ever tried or is it unique.

Kathie Brown said...

Thanks Klaus, maybe now you can try it on those prickly pears in Florida! I have a recipe for prickly pear magaritas!

Sanibletoots, welcome to my blog! The juice and the jelly are both very tasty. I'll post recipes soon.

Deborah, yeah, you can have fun saying that all night long if you want to! It's a tongue twister for sure!

Garden path, You know, it has such a unique taste. To me it is unlike anything I have ever tasted but I love the flavor. The juice alone is not sweet or bitter. It is just itself, maybe a cross between a strawberry and a plum if you can imagine that.

Denise, it's totaly unique. See comment to gardenpath above.

Maybe I should start selling this stuff on ebay....

Ur-spo said...

what a fantastic post!
it was synchronicity at its finest. I've been eyeing the prickly pear fruit in the backyard for some time , thinking there must be some way of harvesting them. I was browsing my blog comments and linked up to you - and you have all the answers I was looking for!
I hope to make pickley pear sorbet, using the liquid and my sorbet maker.

thank you

Mary said...

Kathie, I've read your recent posts and I think I'm falling in love with your Nikon D80. Wow.

Doug Taron said...

That looks like fun. I haven't tried the jelly yet, but I'm having salmon this week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Kathie Brown said...

ur-spo, what a fun surprise! Come back again, for I will be posting recipes for prickly pear juice and jelly! It only takes a few pears to get enough juice. You can see we went way overboard. I sent some jelly home with Doug and, as you can see from his comment, I told him to try it on Salmon.

Mary, Nice to see your smiling face again. I do like my D80 but I still need to read the book to learn how to use it properly.

Doug, Well, I hope you like it! Meanwhile, I've been drinking the wine you left behind and thinking about you. Sorry we didn't open it while you were here, but I have been enjoying it for the past couple of nights. Thank you!

Markus Latva-aho said...

Hi! Super interesting to see how you made that cactus juice. Happy week end!

Beth said...

what an interesting process. It looks like you are going to have a bumper crop of jelly. Thanks for always sharing such interesting information. :) said...

wow - very cool post! I have never seen anything like this before with Prickly Pears....very neat!

Texas Travelers said...

Thanks for the lesson today. Very thorough and well done. Nice photos.

Troy and Martha

Leedra said...

Learn something new everyday. Today from you. Never knew any of these. Thought those were just blooms. Who would have thought you could do this? Great info. Thanks for sharing.

Leedra said...

Learn something new everyday. Today from you. Never knew any of these. Thought those were just blooms. Who would have thought you could do this? Great info. Thanks for sharing.

Ur-spo said...

I wanted to let you know my prickley pear juice came out well, thanks to your photo lessons.

I made sorbet and it was the talk
of the dinner last night.

thank you.

Larry said...

It looks like too much work for me but I'd gladly try the jelly or juice as log as it didn't leave cactus prickers in my tongue.

Margaret Cloud said...

Thanks for sharing this, I didn't even know there was prickly pears, it looks like a long process, but worth it.