Saturday, January 8, 2011

Prickly Pear Jam!


Said for my mother's benefit as I fell up the mountain into a cactus while trying to get more prickly pears for the baskets my sisters and I make for our friends.

This was not the first prickly pear gathering that we had tried to do this particular year.
Laura (my sister) and I had stopped outside of Wikenberg on the way up to the mountains. We had all been a touch worried since we hadn't seen any near my parents house so we had decided in our infante wisdom that stopping the car on the side of highway 93 with two small puppies was super smart.

And I personally had decided that picking prickly pears in flip flops in high grass where you can actually see the desert floor was equally intelligent.

This actually wasn't at all smart in any way shape or form.
Laura's puppies freaked out and kept hiding behind her legs since the cars were whizzing by us a mere 10 feet away. Which meet I was gathering the fruit (yes, the red bulbs on the top of the cacti are called fruit) by myself .... in the tall grass .... in flip flops.

Whoa boy! I am a smart one!!

The thing with gathering the fruit from the cacti is that you need to use metal tongs as the juicy fruit is covered in teeny tiny opaque needles. Needles that if you get in you are really hard to get out. As I'm congratulating myself on my ability to gather all this fruit by myself with cars whizzing by, a sudden lull in traffic occurs..... and a very distinctive rattle was suddenly heard.

Picture me, Laura and the puppies running for our lives next to the highway with traffic and hauling a bucket full of fruit covered in needles.

Once we got the fruit to my parents cabin we started the hard part, de-needling the prickly pears.

This means that they needed to be boiled and boiled and boiled and boiled and boiled.
To do this, we hooked up the propane tank and a the pot we use to deep fry turkey.
after that, we had to
strain and strain and strain and strain and strain and strain
the softened fruit.
We broke down the fruit and then used a dish towel that we ran the juice through several times.
Whatever you do ...

the juice to hasten the straining. You will get those super fun needles in your jam ... and then on your toast .... and into your mouth!


The first time we did this process we only yielded about half a quart of juice.
Enough to make only 12 jars tiny of jam.
Which is why we then went off to see if there was maybe possibly a few prickly pears left on the mountain.

There is apparently a difference in elevation (silly us). Which resulted in a longer life for the fruit. Hmmm.... I guess the highway adventure was not really needed.

Instead climbing mountains to find fruit would have been "easier". I mean, we did all fall in cactus.
But the juice from the prickly pears from the mountain was amazing!

Yes, this jam requires a lot of work. But oh man.....
This jam is so totally worth it!!

The recipie is for after you have done the juicing.

What you need:
1 package pectin
2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice
3 tbl lemon juice
3 1/2 cups sugar

What you do:
Combine pectin and prickly pear juice and bring to a hard boil
Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a hard boil again
Boil 3 more minutes, wait until the mixture is glossy
Remove from heat and and skim the foam
Pour into prepared jars and before you seal make sure that that the glass is clean
Put on the lid and rings, make sure the jar 'pops'
Let cool

If you cant wait to try the jam, you can always eat the foam. It becomes kind of gelatinous and is really good.

If you want help....... you'll have to call my Mom or my aunt Mary Ellen.

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