When my friend Amanda called to ask if I would be interested in harvesting and canning prickly pear jam and syrup with her, I was ecstatic! Not only have I been wanting to learn how to can this year (see my long, mostly uncompleted list of "Amish" goals for this year), but I have also had a keen interest in learning to cook something with the prickly pears I've seen in the grocery stores around town. You know, to cross it off my Tucson bucket list, so to speak.
We've been planning to do this for a few weeks and today was the day!
Squire got me pumped by playing The Jungle Book's, "Bare Necessities" song for me this morning because of the tongue-twister line in the song about prickly pear picking (start at about 1:22 for the infamous line):
Amanda, our friend Allison and I all headed out around 8:00 am this morning to harvest prickly pears together. We left the kidlets with their daddies, so we could harvest and can without distractions. :)
|Crazily excited for this new adventure.|
|Prickly Pear Cacti.|
|Prickly pear picking at 26 weeks pregnant.|
|A happy picker.|
To de-prickle them, we rinsed them in hot water first, and then in cold water with a little scrubbing second. We passed them down our assembly line with tongs.
|Prickly pears undergoing their first rinse.|
After their rinsing, I cut the pears in half (holding them still with tongs) as they were not 100% de-pricklyed, even after the rinsing. (Some methods call for burning off the pokeys, and then peeling off the outside skin. We thought the rinsing and straining would be an easier and less risky approach.) We put them in our biggest stock pots, with just enough water to cover the bottoms of the pots, and boiled them on medium-high for about 20-30 minutes, or until they were easy to mash.
|Rinsed and halved prickly pears ready to be boiled. They look Pomegranate-esque, don't you think?|
Here is Amanda, our ring leader and experienced prickly pear canner, mashing up the cooked prickly pears with a potato masher. **Cool fact: Did you know that the fruit of the prickly pear is called Tuna?** Yeah, I didn't know before today either!
|Mashing the boiled tuna!|
|Mashing the prickly pears in the colander, for the first rough strain.|
|Straining the juice through the finest strainer for the third and final time.|
We brought the strained juice to a boil, then added half of the sugar and all the pectin needed for each recipe, as well as the lemon juice. After stirring that all in very well, we added the rest of the sugar.
After bringing the concoctions to a boil again, we set the syrup aside to cool down, and skimmed the foam from off the top of the jelly mixture:
|Skimming the foam from the jelly mixture.|
|Our beautiful finished product.|
Our cheeks are a little rosy and we are all a bit shiny from working for 5 hours in a hot kitchen together, but we got so much accomplished! We canned about 40 cups of Prickly pear jelly, and about 38 cups of Prickly pear syrup between the three of us.
|Happy to be done!|
Prickly Pear Jelly Recipe (We did a 4x of this recipe)
5 cups juice
5 cups sugar
5 tsp. lemon juice
2 packages Pectin
Prickly Pear Syrup Recipe (We did a 2x of this recipe)
10 cups juice
10 cups sugar
¾ cup lemon juice
1 package Pectin
Let me know if you try canning your own prickly pear jelly or syrup, too!
I totally recommend it - especially if your friends are as hard-working, and awesome as mine are. :)
Happy September, everyone! I hope you all have a fantastic Labor Day weekend.