It's prickly pear fruit season again. A friend and I went out picking fruit on her in-laws' private property on Friday and then made jelly on Saturday. We each picked enough to fill a 4 gallon bucket with fruit, and then cleaned and processed them at our own homes to get the juice. Last year's tutorial, with pictures, will show you how to do this.
The only thing I did differently this year was cooking the fruit in the solar oven rather than on the stovetop. It worked perfectly well and kept the house a little cooler.
I woke early on Saturday and decided to make my jelly right away. Surprisingly, it only took one hour from start (heating the water in the water bath canner to sterilize the jars) to finish (removing finished jelly from the boiling water bath canner). By then my sweetie was awake and the dogs needed their walk. When we returned, I still had time to clean the pans and whip out another batch of jelly before dog obedience class.
In the afternoon, I rode over to my friend's house to help her make a batch of jelly and one of syrup. Thank goodness I took my Xtracycle with the new electric assist because I forgot a couple things and had to go back home for them in a hurry and in 100+ degree temperatures! When we finished, I really didn't feel like doing another batch of jelly or making syrup at home.
I was hot and thirsty, though, so I threw together some prickly pear lemonade. I didn't measure anything. I had about an extra half cup of lemon juice left and added about the same amount of prickly pear juice. I made a sugar syrup in the microwave with about half a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Ice cubes cooled the syrup off when the sugar was dissolved. I mixed the juices, sugar syrup, and another couple of cups of cold water. The pink brew was delicious poured over ice and made 3 large servings.
The prickly pear lemonade was so tasty we decided to just freeze the prickly pear juice rather than making it into anything else. This morning, I threw together a single glass of pink lemonade after 14 miles of bike errands by putting 2 lemon ice cubes, 2 prickly pear ice cubes, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a glass, and then filling it with water.
That was just about right but a little tart. Sugar mixes into cold drinks much better if dissolved into hot water first (as in a sugar syrup).
Last year I mentioned that I did not compost the cactus fruit pulp leftover after straining the juice. This year, I will....but not just yet. In yet another one of my liqueur making experiments with fruit remains (like the pomegranate seed use and re-use), I stuffed the prickly pink pulp into half gallon jars, added 1 cup of sugar, and then filled them to the top with vodka. I'll let these steep for a week or two and then start sampling to see if they're ready. Since I could find nothing about doing this online, I don't know how long to let them steep. Some liqueurs are ready in a week while others take a few months.
Actually, I did find plenty of references to prickly pear liqueurs online but most were recipes for mixed drinks using prickly pear syrup. In Malta, locals make a prickly pear liqueur called Bajtra and in a small community in Sicily, they make one called Ficodi, but I could find no recipes online. On the island of St. Helena, prickly pear fruit (called Tungi) is distilled into whiskey. In Flagstaff, Arizona, a distillery makes vodka out of prickly pear fruit but distilling is a process that is way out of my league. I will be sure to provide an update later on my experiments with making prickly pear liqueur.