Prickle Pear Cactus Fruit Jelly
This recipe has less sugar than most – only 7 grams of sugar per tablespoon of jelly.
4 cups tuna juice (requires around four to five pounds of fruit)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar, divided
50 grams of low sugar/no sugar pectin (about 1 ¾ ounces)
One dozen 4 oz. canning jars, lids and bands, ready for water bath
Hot water bath with enough space for the sealed jars
1. Select some healthy cacti with a lot of nice dark red or purple fruit. Depending on where you live, this may happen anywhere between August and October.
2. Using some metal kitchen tongs, grab the fruits and twist lightly – they should detach easily. Drop the fruit in your collection bucket and continue to the next one. Continue until you have 4 or 5 lbs. of fruits. Resist the temptation to recover already-dropped fruit from the ground, as it may have insect or disease issues.
3. Burn off the spines by holding each fruit over a burner on the stove, or in the flame of a propane torch for a few seconds. The idea here is to just singe off the little invisible spines, as you will never get them pulled by hand. You don’t need to sear the skin or darken the fruit. If you don’t do this, I guarantee you will end up with some in your hands, regardless of how careful you are.
4. Quarter the fruit and put the pieces into a good blender. Push it down as you pulse the fruit into a mash. You may have to add just the smallest bit of water to get it to start a nice puree, but don’t add more than absolutely necessary. Continue with this until you have pureed all of the fruit.
5. Okay, I confess for this next step I use a food mill, and I know that most people don’t have one. It is the easiest and fastest way to process the pulp, so borrow one if you can. Basically, you want to get all the pulp run through the finest mesh of the mill, leaving the seeds, skins and any other pieces behind, and collecting only the beautiful dark magenta syrup.
Alternatively, you can place it all in a pot and add water to just barely cover. Boil the mash for about 10 minutes, occasionally mashing it in the pot to make sure all the juice is extracted. Once this cooks a bit and can be handled, strain the mash through layers of cheesecloth or even t-shirt material laid in a sieve or strainer. Once the juice has run out, gather the edges and squeeze it hard to extract all that remains.
6. Pour a quart of the juice into a pot and add the lemon juice, then stir to mix well.
7. Mix a half-cup the sugar and the specified amount of pectin together, and then sprinkle that evenly around the pot, stirring to mix well again. Bring the pot to a full boil.
8. Now you can slowly and evenly add the remaining sugar and bring the pot back to a full boil. Boil for a minute or two, stirring constantly.
9. Pour the now-thickening mixture into the pre-heated jars, leaving a small air space for expansion. Wipe the rims carefully, add heated lids, and tighten bands to finger tight. Process in the boiling water bath for ten minutes.Uncover the pot, and remove from heat. Remove jars from the pot and let cool on a rack. You should hear the popping sounds as the jar lids seal. Once cool, remove the bands, test the lids for a good seal, and clean and label your jars. You will probably have some jelly left that wouldn’t fit in the jars – this is for you to enjoy right away, just keep it in the fridge.