Prickly Pear Jelly and Jam

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Prickly Pear Jelly

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Prickly Pear Jam

Click here to print an index card recipeClick here for a full page printable recipe.

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{Hey… Did you notice? There’s TWO printable recipes today: one for Prickly Pear Jelly and one for Prickly Pear Jam. Pick your printing preferences at the top or the bottom of the post. And please consider sharing this recipe with your friends and family! Please, and thank you!}

After I’d picked and processed my prickly pears, I had some decisions to make. Despite having a thirty-pack beer box full of prickly pear, I was afraid I’d lose a lot of volume due to seeds. I wanted to get the most product possible out of all my hard work.

Jump to the recipes here.

I had to decide what I wanted to use this precious juice for. I knew I wanted to make jelly, and Prickly Pear Margaritas were a must!

I knew, though, that my options would be heavily influenced by the amount of juice I collected from the prickly pears. I started researching online for prickly pear jelly. Between my research, the tips my readers shared on Instagram and Facebook, and my own personal experience, here’s what I learned:

 

Prickly Pears are high in enzymes.

Translation:  Prickly pear must be boiled for a long time to deactivate those enzymes.

You probably know that you shouldn’t add fresh pineapple to Jell-o salad. The enzymes in the pineapple will prevent the gelatin in the Jell-o from firming up. In the same way, enzymes from fresh prickly pear will keep the jelly from setting. No one wants runny jelly, so be sure to boil the fruit as explained in the recipe below.

 

Prickly Pear has a TON of Seeds!

Yikes! So many seeds! Seriously!

I am not exaggerating when I say that prickly pear have a 50/50 ratio of seeds to pulp. Fortunately there is a ton of juice that cooks out of the fruit also, but those seeds are insane. Several websites encouraged the use of a seed mill to remove the seeds. I can’t speak to that from experience because I didn’t take the time to order a food mill, but I’m considering it for my next batch. I’ll show you my process in the directions below.


Prickly Pear fruit does not soften much.

I expected the fruit to soften up, like a boiled apple. I expected to be able to press the fruit through a sieve and make prickly pear sauce, but that doesn’t happen.

I’m from a waste-not, want-not family. It’s part of my DNA. So the thought of throwing away all that fruit and reserving only the juice was a tough concept for me. I really wanted to find a way to use the fruit as well, but that requires separation from the seeds, which is a little tricky and very time consuming if you don’t have a food mill.

Having gone to the trouble of separating the seeds and the pulp, I will not judge you if you decide to keep only the juice. Most people only use the juice, and that’s just fine! There is no shame in discarding the pulp. However, if you do decide to keep the fruit you could end up with more usable volume for your canned goods. Again, I’ll walk you through that process below.

 

The World Wide Web has a lot of inconsistency in Prickly Pear Jelly Recipes.

I purchased my supplies before I did my research and I bought regular SureJell, not the low/no sugar variety. When I started researching recipes almost every recipe called for the no sugar SureJell.

Other recipes that I found that used regular SureJell used very small amounts of juice meaning they wouldn’t yield very much jelly. I wanted to get as much jelly as I could.

I finally found a recipe from PatchworkTimes.com that used regular SureJell, but she used the liquid variety. I had the powdered kind, but Judy’s recipe looked legit. If you want to use the no sugar variety, this would be the recipe I’d recommend, but please remember that I have not tried his recipe personally.


Another reason I decided to adapt Judy’s recipe was because she doesn’t use lemon juice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like lemon juice, but I didn’t have lemon juice. I did have Fruit Fresh, and Judy’s recipe called for citric acid, so boom. Good enough for me. If you prefer lemon juice, simply switch the Fruit Fresh in my recipe with lemon juice.

 

Supplies and Ingredients

To make Prickly Pear Jelly or Jam you’ll need:

  • Prickly Pear Juice/Fruit
  • Fruit Fresh
  • SureJell
  • Sugar
  • Large canning pot
  • Canning Tongs
  • Canning Jars with unused lids

 

When we moved this past summer, we made the decision to move into a two-bedroom house with the tiniest kitchen I’ve ever seen. Pretty much anything that was not a daily critical need was packed up and moved to storage five hours away. That included my canning supplies.


Being a bit of a tightwad, I decided to purchase the Anchorglass Mason jars instead of the Kerr Mason jars. I’ve always used Kerr in the past, but I decided to give these a try. Overall I’m happy with the purchase, but I was a bit worried. My experience with Kerr jars is that they seal up very quickly. After several hours these Anchorglass lids had not sealed. I let them sit for the full 24 hours as indicated on the box, and fortunately they did all seal within that time frame. I would probably buy the Anchorglass jars again in the future because they were less expensive, but I also appreciate the quicker seal of the Kerr jars.

Also in storage were my canning tongs. I made due with my large pasta pot with a strainer basket. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

 

Prickly Pear Jam and Jelly

Whether you decide to make Prickly Pear Jelly or Prickly Pear Jam, the beginning steps are the same. The fruit needs to be boiled, and the juice needs to be separated.

I had two large bowls of peeled prickly pear in the fridge. Combined it was roughly 8 quarts or 2 gallons of fruit. As the fruit sat in the refrigerator a lot of the juice naturally seeped out of the fruit.

These 2 gallons of fruit and juice yielded 12 half-pint jars and 2 pint jars of jelly and jam. If you have less fruit you’ll probably only be able to get one batch of jelly or jam. I’ll give you some suggestions for any extra juice, but these beginning steps will be the same either way.

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Step 1 ~ 30 – 35 minutes

Place an old towel under your work space to protect counters or table tops.

Transfer the prickly pear fruit and juice to a large stock pot.

Over medium-high heat on the stovetop, bring the juice to a low boil. Stir the juice frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the juice for 20 minutes. This will deactivate the enzymes in the juice.

Allow the juice to cool to a comfortable temperature before handling.

 

Step 2 ~ 10 minutes

While the juice is boiling wash the jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water.

Contrary to some websites, it is no longer required to sterilize jars before filling them as long as they will boil for ten minutes during processing. They will sterilize during that ten minute window. Instead, wash and rinse the jars, lids, and rings, and then allow them to air-dry on a clean rack or towel.

 

Step 3 ~ 10 minutes to 1 hour

Once the fruit and juice has cooled, strain the juice out of the fruit and seeds. I ladled the contents from the stockpot through a wire mesh strainer into my large bowls.

I was left with nearly equal parts of juice and fruit/seeds.

And look at all those seeds! Although it doesn’t look like it from this photo there was a lot of fruit left, too.

I spent a good deal of time picking seeds out of the fruit, discarding the seeds into a trash bag and reserving the fruit. After a while I discovered that the seeds separate much more easily if they are separated under liquid.

If you choose to reserve the fruit as well as the juice, and you don’t have a food mill, this is my new recommendation:

Leave everything together. Holding the fruit under the juice, rub it by hand to separate the seeds from the fruit. The seeds will sink, but need to be knocked loose from the fruit first.

Strain the juice from the seeds and discard the seeds sealed tight in a trash bag. Do NOT throw the seeds out into your compost pile! Find a way to get them as far from your yard as possible!

Again, you may decide that separating the fruit is not worth the time that it takes. I won’t judge you. However, I was able to separate around 4 cups of fruit from the seeds. After all my straining and separating I ended up with 9½ c pure juice and a little more than 4 c fruit.

Remember that I started with around 8 quarts of fruit, but lost almost half of that once it was juiced. Keeping the fruit allowed me to get much higher yields.

Some people choose not to skin their prickly pear and boil them with the spines intact. If you choose to go that route I would avoid keeping the fruit and use only the juice. You would also need to use cheesecloth to strain the juice away from the fruit and the seeds, and strain the juice multiple times to be sure any glochids don’t find their way into your jelly.

 

Prickly Pear Jam

Jump to the Jelly Recipe

Step 1 ~ 2 minutes

If you decide to keep the fruit, place the chunks of prickly pear into a blender.

Puree the fruit. This reduced my volume to 4 c of puree.

 

Step 2 ~ 2 minutes

Measure out 1½ c prickly pear puree into a large heavy pot.

Add 3½ c prickly pear juice to the pot and stir to combine the puree with the juice.

 

Step 3 ~ 2 minutes

Add 2 Tbsp Fruit Fresh

and one 1.75 ounce box of SureJell.

Stir to combine.

 

Step 4 ~ 2 minutes

In a large measuring cup or bowl, premeasure 7 c of sugar.

I discovered before I started boiling my juice that I was going to run out of sugar, so I’m sure glad I premeasured! After a quick trip to the dollar store I was back in business.

 

Step 5 ~ 5 minutes

Bring the juice to a rolling boil. A rolling boil will not stop boiling even when stirred, and you need to stir this constantly!

 

Step 6 ~ 5 minutes

Once the juice and SureJell reach a rolling boil stir in 7 c sugar.

Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. This will reduce the temperature of the jam. Bring it back to a rolling boil, and stir and boil for a full minute, stirring constantly.

Remove the jelly or jam from heat and stir.

 

Step 7 ~ 5 minutes

Once the jelly or jam has stopped boiling use a spoon to skim the foam off the top.

I’m not overly picky about this but I try to remove most of the foam.

 

Step 8 ~ 5 minutes

Place the jars on a rimmed cookie sheet and ladle the jam into the jars.

Leave about ¼” space at the top of the jar.

Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the rims and necks of the jelly jars.

Place the lids on top of the jars and secure the rings on top. Don’t overtighten the rings, but tighten enough to keep the lids in place.

 

Step 9 ~ 20 – 30 minutes

Heat a large pot of water. You’ll need enough water that the jars will be completely submerged by at least an inch.

Once the water is boiling add the jars to the water.

Keep the jars upright, covered with at least an inch of water, and boil for ten minutes.

After 10 minutes carefully remove the jars from the boiling bath and repeat with any remaining jars.

Allow the jars to cool completely. They may take up to 24 hours to seal completely, so don’t try to open them for at least 24 hours. Any jars that do not seal properly should be refrigerated and eaten first. The jelly may take a few days to set up firmly in the jars, but my jars were all firm within 24 hours.

Store Prickly Pear Jams and Jelly in a cool, dark place. Eat what you can and give away the rest for Christmas gifts.

 

Prickly Pear Jelly

Prickly Pear Jelly is made much like the Prickly Pear Jam. The only difference is that it is made entirely from juice, no pulp. While the jam is beautifully colored like the jelly, it will be cloudy in appearance. The jelly, on the other hand, is perfectly clear. They taste the same. The consistency is very similar. But if you’re looking for a vibrant, crystal clear jar, this is the jelly for you.

 

Step 1 ~ 2 minutes

Measure out 5 c prickly pear juice into a large pot.

Complete Steps 3 through 9 as outlined above. The only difference I experienced in cooking the jelly is that after adding the sugar, the jelly boils much more heavily than the jam, causing the jelly to nearly boil out over the rim of the pot.

Be sure to use a pot twice as deep as the amount of juice. And be sure to stir, stir, stir!

Once the jelly or jam has set, at least 24 hours, try it out on some Buttermilk Biscuits for breakfast!

 

What’s left?

I started with 9½ c prickly pear juice. I used 8½ c for the jam and jelly. This left me with 1 c of juice. {That’s my kind of math problem!} Knowing I wanted to make Prickly Pear Margaritas, I used Hank Shaw’s recipe for Prickly Pear Syrup. It was very simple to make, and resulted in excellent margaritas! {Recipe coming soon!} Unfortunately I used all my syrup in my margaritas and now I don’t have any left.

I also reserved two 1 c bags of prickly pear puree.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with them yet, but I’m thinking on it.

The hardest part about this Prickly Pear experience was deciding exactly how to divide the plunder, but I’m very happy with all the choices I made:  Jam, Jelly, and Syrup.

I know a lot of you have your own tips and tricks for making Prickly Pear Jelly. I’d love to hear from you! Take a minute to leave your measurements, tips, and tricks in the comments below!

As always, thank you so much for following along with My Wild Kitchen!

Choose your printable recipe style: Prickly Pear Jelly ~ Printable Index Card or Printable Full Page Recipe
Prickly Pear Jam ~ Printable Index Card or Printable Full Page Recipe.

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