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Prickly Pear Jelly Redux: Juice, Juice Everywhere…

This entry is part of a series, Pepper Jelly Chronicles»

Big Red Pears

I thought the batch of prickly pear I got from Jess and Kai a few days back would be the end of it for the year. After all, I’m home-bound during shoulder rehab; or so I was convinced. The shoulder’s coming along fine, though, so wifey convinced me to take a short overnight trip to the Ranch and leave the torture chair specialty exercise equipment behind. I was reluctant, given how much I enjoy my therapy; but I was eventually convinced after a few seconds’ consideration.

One of the “sweeteners” offered was a chance to gather more prickly pear. Late August and early September is prime pear season, and a drought seldom causes any significant reduction in available fruit. Indeed, wet years are less likely to produce good quality cacti due to splitting of the fruit. Sure enough, as we were driving along near the Ranch we saw lots of prime red fruit, ready for harvesting, and a lot of it on public lands (roadway right-of-way).

Come Monday morning we went a-roving, tongs and gloves in hand, and we readily filled two big carry-tubs with fruit. Nearly 20 pounds! Then I remembered: Oh joy, I would get to work all that fruit up. And I has stickers, large and small. Everywhere. It took the better part of a morning, but using my largest kitchen gear and some patience I got the fruit washed, quartered, cooked and extracted. (And only one teeny, tiny stick, hardly worth mentioning.) At the end I had enough juice to easily make three full batches of prickly pear jelly, maybe four.

I refrigerated the majority of the product and measured out about four cups of deep red liquid for a “test batch” of jelly. I planned to use a very simple recipe this time: Juice, acid, sugar and pectin. That’s it. (This was by request from daughterperson; and since she risked major prickles to help me get the fruit, well, I caved.) With the fruit juice already in the pot I added ¾ cup apple cider vinegar and began to heat on high. Meanwhile I measured out 6 cups of sugar. I took a ½ cup of the sugar and mixed in 3 stout tablespoons of no-sugar pectin. I put the pectin-sugar mix in early, while the liquid was heating up, and made sure it was stirred in well. As the syrup began to bubble I put in the rest of the sugar and stirred for a while to dissolve. I kept the heat on high until the liquid came to a rolling boil. I made sure the strong boil continued for a few minutes, for the pectin to activate. (I had to use the  pat-of-butter trick to control the strong foaming.) I then pushed the pot off the heat and got out the jars.

As always, I had my lids sterilizing in a small pot of water, and the canning pot was preheated to just below simmer. My clean, sterile jars were waiting in the oven (set for 200° F); all I had to do was fetch out a few at a time and fill them using my trusty ladle and funnel. (By the way, a good canning funnel not only helps you control the mess, but lets you fill each jar to the exact, proper level. Get one!) I filled and canned, yielding eight half-pint jars of beautiful, deep garnet-red (with overtones of Tyrian Purple) jelly. This batch isn’t as “solid” as previous jellies, so it’ll also make great ice-cream topping.

Why the loose set?  Well, three tablespoons of pectin works wonders for six-jar batches; I got eight. I suspect that’s all it is.

Anybody got some toast handy? Bagels? Vanilla ice cream they don’t want? Guess I’ll have to fend for myself…

The (Cactus Jelly) Heat is On!

Entries in this series:
  1. Red Pepper Jelly Sunday
  2. Pepper Jelly Update: Anybody Got a Gas Mask I Can Borrow?
  3. Tag-Team Teaching in the Kitchen
  4. Lemon Ginger Marmalade, an Easy Spread to Make
  5. Yellow Inferno for Breakfast: Caribé-Habañero Pepper Jelly
  6. Lemony-Hot Jam, a Hybrid Spread With a Slow Burn
  7. Hatch Chiles and Lime, a Great Combo for Jam
  8. Jessica, Your Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly is Ready
  9. Hunting the Wild Prickly Pear in South Texas
  10. Prickly Pear Jelly Redux: Juice, Juice Everywhere…
  11. Charred Pineapple, Habañeros and Bourbon, a Great Jam Combo
  12. How to Push Prickly Pear Jelly Over the Top With Serrano Chiles
  13. Not Your Momma’s Marmalade
  14. A Jam That’s Just Plum Good…
  15. Peaches O’ Eight Jam, the Perfect Pirate Toast Topping
  16. Saint Basil’s Green; It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
  17. Pepper Jelly Redux: Apricot Jam, Extra-Zesty Habañero and Serrano Jellies
  18. Pepper Jelly Sweetened with Stevia: It’s a Hit!
  19. Gardens, Gators, and Green Pepper Jelly
  20. Do Hairless Peaches Make Great Jam? You Betcha…
  21. Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Jam
  22. Cinnamon Plus Heat Equals Magic
  23. March Madness, With Mangos…
  24. StingJam, a New Variety of Pepper Jelly
  25. Butter and Scotch? Not Quite; But a Great Jelly Nonetheless…
  26. White Flesh Peach Zingjam, a Refreshing Topping
  27. More Summertime Fruit Pepper Jellies
  28. Holiday Marmalade with Habaneros and Prickly Pear Juice
  29. Pepper Jelly Makes a Great Christmas Present
  30. Cherry Season is Here, and Cherry Pepper Jellies are Great
  31. Pepper Jellies and the Manzano Chile
  32. Singapore Sling Pepper Jelly! Now You Can Drink Your Toast…
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