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Friday, August 7, 2015

Prickly Pear Jelly

Prickly Pear tunas are turning ripe this time of year. Tuna are the fruit of the prickly pear cacti that ripen after it flowers. Prickly Pear Jelly has a unique flavor I wouldn't begin to know how to describe, but it's good. My neighbor has a nice crop of tunas this year and I decided to try my hand at making jelly. I searched the web for recipes and tips then got started. 

There are different kinds of prickly pears and the tunas can be different colors. I'm not sure all prickly pear tuna are good for human consumption so be sure you do your research.

The tuna from the prickly pear I'm using here have very long, hard and sharp spines on them. They also have very tiny almost invisible spines or stickers called glochids. 

The tuna are covered with patches of glochids and make working with the fruit a challenge. These glochids will make your life miserable if you get any in you. The slightest breeze will blow them around once disturbed, trust me on this! I was very careful not to spread them around but a day or two after my jelly making I still 'found' a couple. 

Over at my neighbors, I used tongs to carefully grasp each ripe tuna to remove it while being very careful to not step on any spines that had dropped on the ground. (I was wearing flip flops for this job, not at all the suggested footwear in a cactus patch.) I had read that green tunas have more pectin so I included some of them too.

I chose to clean up the fruit in my kitchen because of the summer heat but its best to do the washing outside to keep the glochids outdoors. I poured batches of fruit in to a colander and ran water over them to remove some of the tiny stickers. They also had little patches of a white sticky substance on them (these are from a tiny scale insect) and I wanted that off before I started cooking them. I put them back in the bowl and covered them with water. Holding each one with my tongs I turned and scrubbed them with a veggie brush to clean, this also removed more stickers.

You can cut the peel off the tuna or burn off the stickers, I choose to leave them on. Most of the directions I found online suggested the next step to puree or juice the the fruits, strain through a cloth and then cook them. I tried this with the first batch and regretted it. The pureed fruit is very gelatinous and slimy, full of seeds and hard to work with raw. I never achieved getting it strained through a cloth at all. I dumped it into my cooking pot next and on medium heat I began stirring. The fruit easily burned and it took me a week to scrub that pot clean.

The next batch I cooked the fruits whole in water not quite covering the tops until tender, about 20 minutes. I cooled it some then pureed it in my blender. So much better that way! Cooking removed the gelatinous quality and it was similar to other fruit purees.The addition of the water did thin out the finished puree of course.

The next step needed is to remove the seeds. I did this by pouring puree into the colandar set inside a large bowl. Using a spatula I stirred and pushed the puree through leaving peels, seeds and most of the solids behind. Yes the tiny stickers, the glochids, are still in the fruit puree. At this point they are soft and harmless.

Now the juice can be strained through cloth. Cheese cloth is probably too large of a weave to catch the stickers; I used cloth diapers. These are diapers I purchased on Amazon to use only in the kitchen, (they are wonderful for many kitchen jobs, so glad I found them ;)  It took a long time to strain and still I could see the tiny glochids in the strained juice that I poured into quart mason jars. Though supposedly safe at this point I still did not want those little buggers in my finished jelly!

I noticed that they were settling on the bottom of my jars so I refrigerated them over nite. The next day I carefully poured the juice in measuring cups leaving the stickers in the bottom of the jars. 

Now I was ready to make the jelly. I'm sorry but I don't remember the site where I found the following low sugar recipe. If I remember one day I will update with a link here. I picked 16 pounds of tuna, and that made 16 cups of finished juice. It was a lot of work but I did enjoy my experience, and I love making something from free things or what I already have. Have you ever tried Prickly Pear Jelly?

Prickly Pear Jelly, Low Sugar Recipe

4 cups of juice
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 pkg of low sugar pectin
3 cups of sugar
Makes 6  8 oz jars. Water bath process.

Follow directions for any type of fruit jelly. 

Measure juice into a large pot. Stir in pectin and lemon juice. Stirring constantly bring to a boil then add sugar. Stir sugar in and when it comes to a rolling boil that can't be stirred down, boil for one minute. Immediately ladle into waiting hot jars. Clean rims of jars, apply lids, and process in a water bath timed for your elevation. At my elevation in Phoenix, thats 15 min. 
  • you can heat the sugar in the microwave for a minute to warm it before adding to boiling juice. It goes faster that way.
  • Keep sterilized jars hot and ready on a cookie tray in a 200 degree oven.
  • Water bath processing is not necessary if you plan to refrigerate after cooking.
  • I add 2-3 TB of vinegar to my processing water to keep my jars clean.

 Copyright © 2015 by Hill House Homestead ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. I love this looks so pretty when it's done. I've never tried prickly pear jelly but, would love to! Thanks for sharing at the Inspiration Spotlight Party! Pinned & Shared. Hope to see you again soon.

  2. My grandmother used to make this. I hadn't thought about it in years. Thanks for the memory!
    Wishes for tasty dishes, Linda

  3. This may sound silly, but I didn't know prickly pears were a real thing. I thought it was something that the Bear from the Jungle Book saying about. Hee-Hee! looks delicious and what a pretty color it comes out to.

  4. Love the sound of this. Living in th UK we don't have any cactus plants but we have other fruits that we collect and make jellies and chutneys with such as, crab apples, blackberries elderberries and damsons. I love foraging for wild fruits and making stuff with them.

  5. Wow, this is great! Here in Israel the fruit from the same cactus is eaten as husband has fond childhood memories of harvesting them, and I do now and again see folks out with sticks with a tin can at the end which they use to remove the fruit. thanks for sharing on craft schooling Sunday!

  6. Very informative post on Prickly Pear Jelly, in fact just on the Prickly Pear itself. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  7. wow, so cool. Going to try this! Thanks. Stopping by #TuesdaysTable

  8. Your being featured tomorrow at the Inspiration Spotlight Party! Hope to see you there! Feel free to join in with any of your posts again.

  9. That is very cool. However, since I live in Connecticut, it's not likely that I will come across any of these. I pinned your post though, for my followers... many live in the west. Best wishes, Linda

  10. Looks yummy! I've never had homemade jelly. Thanks for sharing at the Submarine Sunday Link Party!

  11. Interesting! I love the color and would love to try this, too bad I'll have to wait till I travel down south since I live in New Hampshire, LOL.

  12. I bought some prickly pear jelly at a farmers market one time and it was very yummy! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  13. Great recipe with detail. I'm currently making some jelly and tried it once before but forgot the lemon. Very important as it is a great flavor enhancer. Also looking for the syrup recipe as it is great to flavor margaritas as many of the Western bars feature. Ponderosa Lady

  14. I've never heard of this, Connie but of course these don't grow around here. Learn something new every day! :) Your jelly jars look delicious and lovely jewels :)

  15. What adjustments should I make should I make for Prescott AZ 4800ft?


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