Cactus Jelly Recipes

Prickly pears are the orange, red, or purple fruits of any species of Opuntia cactus, also called Prickly pear, Cholla, or Nopal. They must be handled carefully, being picked with tongs or sturdy gloves, and the spines and small hairs (glochids) removed. For small batches, spines may be sliced off, or scraped with the back of a knife. For larger batches, they can be burned away with a torch, or rubbed around in burlap or canvas, and then washed in cool water. Be sure to wear gloves! Cut away any scabs, scars, or spoiled portions of the fruit. Pears may be cut into quarters before boiling to make mashing easier, and ensure a higher-quality jelly and better yields.

Prickly Pear Jelly

About 15 large prickly pear fruits
Powdered pectin or Sure-Jell
Lemon or lime juice

Use only fully ripe fruits. Slightly green fruits add an unpleasant sour flavor to the jelly. After removing the spines, cover the fruit in water and boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the fruit and strain it through cheesecloth to produce the juice.

Measure the juice, for every cup of juice you will need 1 tablespoons powdered pectin or Sure-Jell, 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, and 1 to 1 cups sugar. The smaller amount of sugar yields a slightly tart jelly.

Pour the juice into a clean pot, add the pectin, and bring to a quick boil, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil, and cook for 3 minutes or until it passes the jelly test. Skim off foam and pour the jelly into jars. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath if it is to be stored.

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This is the recipe I have been using, with very good results. I preferred to use lime juice with our local pears, lemon may be better for other areas, or depending on your taste preference. Amounts for a typical batch are as follows:
6 cups juice
1/2 cup pectin
2/3 cup lemon or lime juice
6 to 9 cups sugar

I find our fruits are in the medium-sweet range and 8 cups of sugar per 6 cups of juice yeilds a very pleasant tangy jelly.

Cactus Lemon Marmalade

1/4 cup lemon slices
1 cup prickly pear pulp (split the fruit and remove the tips and seedy centers)
1/4 cup honey

Put the lemons in a small saucepan and cover with water, Soak overnight. The next morning add the cactus and honey and cook until mixture is thick. Pour into a hot pint jar and cover with sealing wax or process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

Saguaro Cactus Jelly

16 to 24 saguaro fruits
1 package powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 cups honey

Split the fruit and remove the tips and seedy centers. Place the pulp in a pot, cover with water, and simmer until well-cooked, about 15 minutes. Strain the pulp using a fine collander. In a large pot, combine 3 1/4 cups saguaro puree, pectin, lemon juice, and honey. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then pour into hot pint jars. Cover with sealing wax or process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Makes 4 pints.