My Sister has the most beautiful cactus garden ever. I guess she got the make everything pretty with flowers gene and I got the grow food gene. No seriously when we put our heads together we make a good team. The fruit on my sister’s prickly pear cactus was just perfectly ripe for making jam.
My kids seem to always like to tag along on all my unusual pursuits, which I see as a good thing, most of the time. Now you have to remember that we have a rambunctious, fearless, energetic, out of the box young man in our midst. Picture approaching spiny cactus and picking the fruit off of them with your favorite cartoon character. Even if it is your favorite character, still a risky business. Am I right? Now I bet your getting the picture. So we are picking cactus with our tongs when my energetic young man sees something he must have nestled deep within the cactus. What could possibly be so important that he cannot leave the cactus patch without it? Money? Some lost and sorely missed treasure? No, it was a Nerf dart weathered and faded by the elements. After a few, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” from the other kids and a good working over with the tweezers he is back to his normal nutty self. Was it worth it for the jam? He enthusiastically exclaims, “Indeed it was!”
Before you can start making jam there are a few steps that you have to go through. First get the little spines off the fruit. I did this by holding it over my sister’s gas stove burner with tongs therefore burning the little things off. If you don’t have a gas stove you can do it over a barbecue grill. Once I had the spines burned off I rinsed and scrubbed them good with a veggie brush just to be sure.
Now it is time to put them in a big pot and add water until they are just covered. Boil hard for about 10 minutes. Line a colander with several layers of cheese cloth and drain solids out squeezing the cloth to get all the juice. Now you have the juice that makes your jelly.
- 4 cups juice from prickly pear fruit
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 package low sugar pectin(1.75 ounces) I used Sure Jell for one batch
- and Pomona's Universal Pectin for another:
- PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS JELLY WITH POMONA'S UNIVERSAL PECTIN
- Make jelly with:
- 4 Cups cactus juice
- ¼ Cup lemon juice
- 4 tsp calcium water
- 4 tsp to 5 tsp pectin
- 2 Cups sugar
- It is a little more complicated with this kind because you have to mix up calcium water to use with pectin powder and it didn't gel up until the next morning. You can use 1 cup less sugar though and it tasted great. Follow instructions in box for calcium water.
- Pour 4 cups of juice into pot and pour in ½ cup lemon juice
- Mix a quarter cup of the sugar and a package of low/no sugar pectin and add to the juice.
- Bring the mixture to a full boil.
- Add the remaining sugar and bring back to a full boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Pour into six ½ pint jars.
- Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
Those little tong things specially designed to lift the jars out of the REALLY hot water are VERY important!
I remembered as I put my jars in that I neglected to buy a rack for the bottom of my large canning pot. This is very important because as the water begins to boil your jars began to jump around. I speak from experience, from the last time I canned green tomato relish, they can and will break. So I threw in some metal jar rings in the bottom ,which worked pretty good, but I still am going to buy a rack before I attempt canning again. If for some reason your jelly doesn’t gel up quite right, don’t fret just use it for syrup.
If you have been eyeing your neighbors prickly cactus fruits let this be the year you turn them into jelly! Ask politely first, of course. I will leave it up to you if you want to take your favorite cartoon character with you. Hee hee, mine sure keeps things interesting!