Prickly Pear Jam
A while back I was thinking about making prickly pear jam. Guess seeing the beautiful red fruit just inspired me. Many years ago, I tried to make prickly pear jelly, I ended up with syrup. It was good but too runny for toast.
I got lots of suggestions on why it didn’t work but had not attempted it since this summer. And this summer I went wild and decide to go for jam… with little bits of prickly pear fruit in it.:) This post is on the process we went through, the disaster we encountered and the final success.
The first step in anything with prickly pear fruit is to pick the fruit. By the way the fruit is called “tuna or tunas” in plural, well making jam with “TUNA” just sounds gross so I will call them pears of fruits. The word tuna makes me think of fish and who would want to eat fish jam?
Method one… the one that works the best but is a little more time consuming. Burn the thorns off the fruit as you pick it with a propane torch, making sure to also get the bottom of the fruit after it is picked. The bottoms of the fruit where it attaches to the cactus can have tons and tons of little thorns that look almost like fuzz…. it is NOT fuzz.
The second method is to pick all the fruits with tongs, toss them in a bucket and burn the thorns off over the gas stove. This method does not work quite as well because the fruits can pick up thorns from their neighbors in the bucket. But I will admit it is a lot cooler to be inside than standing in the sun burning thorns. :)
Close up of the thorns… and some neighbor thorns that have stuck themselves in to a fruit… the fuzz at the bottom of this fruit is actually a million tiny thorns. The little beige areas are all tiny thorns.
Here are the fruits after burning off the thorns. They are all juicy. This burning also helps the skin to come off easily… keep in mind “easy” is a relative term.:)
Once all the thorns are gone, cut off both ends of the fruit. Then you can make a slit along the fruit for peeling the skin (slit not shown)
Then you just peel off the thin layer of skin. If you go too deep you are going to lose all the meat of the fruit. The skin is rather thin. The fruits are more seeds than anything.
Then I cut the pealed fruits in half to pull off the meat. Most of the recipes I found said to “scrape out” the seeds… this is lame because it is a pain. It is way easier to just peel off the meat. See below.
The meat of the fruit peels right off the seeds. The seeds stay in a little glump. We tossed the seed blobs in a pan to extract juice from later. You don’t want to leave any seeds because the seeds are like rocks. They would most likely break your teeth it you tried to chew one. I have read that they can be ground into some type of flour, but I have no idea how to do that or what you would use it for.
This photo as gross as it looks is actually all the wonderful meat from the fruits. They taste a lot like a kiwi fruit. I ended up slicing up this fruit meat to add to the juice to make jelly into jam.
We took the seeds and skins, cooked them with a cup or two of water for a while to extract all the juice. One recipe I read said to smush it through a strainer. We just boiled it and strained it to get the juice. Seemed much eaiser to me. Above you see the sliced fruit with the juice extraced from the seeds and me… adding sugar.
You also add lemon juice, lemon rind and pectin. I will put the recipe we ended up with at the end.
Then you boil the heck out of the whole mess. This is where I went wrong in the past. I did not boil it long enough or hot enough for the jelly to jell. This is probably one of the most important parts and it took quite a long time.
Here is our finished jam… why is it upside down? I really have no idea, just something my mom said to do. We ended up putting it back the the hot water bath as the directions in the pectin package instructed us to do, right side up.
And there is the final result JAM!!!
We did have a mishap with the first batch we tried. We didn’t boil it long enough, ended up with syrup with fruit bits in it. I went on line and read it could be re-boiled and re-canned. I poured all the jars back in a pan and re-boiled it.. hey it started to jell. The disaster was when I pulled the old candy thermometer out… part of the glass was missing. Needless to say, that jam went in the trash and we started all over again. Picking all new pears, burning off the thorns… and on and on. :)
Ok so here is the recipe we ended up with if you are interested in makeing prickly pear jam at some point in your life.
Prickly Pear Jam
50 prickly pear fruits
4 maybe 5 cups of sugar
2 cups water (to boil seeds in)
Juice of 2 lemons and 1 grated lemon rind
1 (Net Wt. 1.75 OZ) package pectin
Burn thorns off pears. Cut ends off, peel skin off pears then peel the meat off leaving the seeds behind. Put seed blobs and skin if you want in a pan with 2 cups water simmer for about a half hour, then drain off the juice. Throw away the seeds and skin.
Put juice in really large pan with cut up prickly pear meat, lemon juice, lemon rind, sugar and pectin. Boil the heck out of it. 216°F for our altitude. As the syrup continues to boil, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon two at a time. When the two drops form together and “sheet” off the spoon, the jellying point has been reached. (or you can put some in a cool spoon and see if it thickens as it cools)
Pour into prepared sterilized jelly jars and seal. Process as indicated on your pectin package (Have jars clean and hot. Pack product to within ¼-inch of top, and seal. Heat process for 6 minutes in boiling water bath canner (10 minutes for cold, unsterilized jars). Count time from when water returns to boil. )
Made 12 4oz jars plus 2 8oz jars.
I found this site quite helpful http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can7_jam_jelly.html
Update: I found an easy way to juice these fruits. This year we picked a bunch of fruits, washed them, then froze them. The next morning, we put the fruits in a colander lined with cheese cloth, as the fruits thaw they turn to mush, the juice just starts dripping out of them. With a little smushing you have juice galore. To be on the safe side we ran the juice through a coffee filter. Then I froze most of the juice in icecube trays for later use, the rest I made into syrup.