Monthly Archives: August 2013

Prickly Pear Wine

20130808_214429A recent harvest of prickly pears left my fridge full of frozen fruit pulp and one of the main objectives was to try a batch of wine.  The wine is still in process, so we’ll see how well it comes out.  I crafted my recipe based on various sources over the internet and what I have learned about wine so far.  This post assumes that you already know enough about making wine to properly sanitize.

6 lbs. prickly pears, juiced.
3 qt. Water
2 lbs. sugar
Juice of 1 lime.
¾ tsp yeast nutrient
¾ tsp yeast energizer
¾ tsp pectic enzyme
Flor Sherry Yeast WLP700

OG: 1.090

I previously skinned 6 lbs. of prickly pears and froze what amounted to a little over 3 lbs. of pulp.  I like to freeze fruit that I am going to juice, as the freezing process helps to break down the cell walls.  I added a couple of quarts of water and brought it almost to a boil.  Then I strained the pulp and juice through a cheese cloth and was left with a little over three quarts of juice.

I topped it off to one gallon, added the lime juice, the yeast nutrient, and the yeast energizer, and the sugar.  Then I heated it back up to 165 degrees F to pasteurize it and to make sure the sugar was well dissolved.  Then, over an ice bath, cooled it down to room temperature. You must cool it down before doing anything else.  Higher temperatures from here on out will cause problems.

From here, I added the pectic enzyme and let it sit for 12-24 hours.  This will help to clarify the wine.  Then,  comes the yeast.  I choice Flor Sherry yeast.

I expect that some time down the road I will be back-sweetening it, though I haven’t yet planned on how to do that.  I will either use campden tablets and wine stabilizer, or time to kill the yeast.  Then I’ll add either a simple syrup mixture or perhaps prickly pear nectar.

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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Prickly Pears, Recipes



Prickly Pear Syrup and Soda Pop Recipe

Prickly Pear SodaAfter the great harvest of prickly pears, my first and most immediate need was to thank those that supplied the fruit.  While there will be wine and mead in the future, those are many months off and not the beverages of choice for everyone, so soda pop it is.  Notice the little nod to my Midwestern upbringing.  It has to start with the syrup; which by the way, can also be used for margaritas, lemonade, ice cream, or any number of things.

Prickly Pear Syrup

  • 2 cups pure unsweetened prickly pear juice (previously prepared)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime

Heat the liquids to dissolve the sugar.  Bring it to a boil.  Cool in an ice bath before pouring into the storage container of your choice.

Prickly Pear Soda (or Pop to the rest of my family)

  • 1 oz. Prickly Pear Syrup
  • ½ oz. additional Prickly Pear Syrup (optional)
  • 10 oz. Soda Water
  • 1 oz. ½ & ½ cream (optional)
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish (optional)
  • 4 oz. of ice

Mix all ingredients into a pint sized glass and stir.  The variable from 1 to 1 ½ oz. of syrup will allow you to range your mixture from light to a sweeter, more fuller-bodied soda.  Add cream for a creamy, smooth texture.  It is worth the extra purchase at the store.


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The Pulp of Prickly Pears: A Desert Harvest Adventure

Prickly PearsI was fortunate enough to find myself with over 30 lbs. of prickly pears for various culinary and fermentable adventures.  Thirty pounds is a lot of fruit and my carboys are full, but the season to pick this cactus fruit is now.  So my first task is to preserve the fruit so that I could tackle these tasks at my leisure.

A lot of wine and mead recipes called for 5-6 lbs. of fruit, so I divided my batch up into 6 lb. increments.  I found that 6 lbs. just about filled up a 1.25 gallon bucket that I use to buy 15 lb. batches of honey with.

Some of my reading said to grill the prickly pears just long enough to burn the picklies off.  This process was also to make them easier to skin.  So, I dumped six pounds of the cactus fruit on the grill and gave it a whirl.  I quickly suspected this wasn’t going to be my method of choice.  The grill was heated unevenly and too far from the flame to really burn the spines as effectively as I wanted.  It helped a lot, but at what expense?  The heat was causing the pears to juice out and I feared losing volume.   Worst of all, I had several more batches to go and this just didn’t seem to be very efficient. How much gain for my pain?

For the rest of them, I just decided to skin just as they came off the plant: raw and prickly as the name suggests.  Despite my leather gloves, I am still carrying tweezers around with me by the way.  If I were to try a burning method again, I think next time I will rig something up sort of like grilling marshmallows over an open flame.  At any rate, methods like this just seem more reasonable for smaller quantities of fruit.

As for the efficiency, it didn’t seem to loose me as much as I had feared.  The 6 lbs. of grilled fruit yielded me just over 3 lbs. of pulp and juice.  I weighed two of the raw increments.  One of them was just ½ ounce more; the other was close to ½ lb. more.  The raw increments had more pulp intact but still enough juice to be messy.  With such a limited sample, it is really hard to say how much the method really accounted for.  I suspect I was also becoming more efficient at gutting these little buggers.

Pulping the Prickly PearSpeaking of gutting and skinning, I developed a method I had not yet seen before that seemed to work pretty well for me.  Holding the fruit upside down, stab the fruit through just above the blossom and cut away from you toward the stem, cutting the fruit in half lengthwise.  This way you have two fruit halves held together by the blossom.  Use a spoon to clean it out like scraping the goody from an artichoke leaf; though the consistency of the raw fruit is more like eating a kiwi with a spoon.  Keeping the two halves attached just makes it easier that trying to put down and pick up the halves with a bulky cumbersome leather glove.

From here I just put the goody in freezer bags and froze them.  For most fruits that you intend to juice, freezing becomes a good part of the process anyway.  The ice crystals that form cut and burst open the cells allowing it to juice out much easier when you are ready for it.

When it came time to prepare the juice, I thawed out a bag and brought it to a boil, then strained it with cheese cloth.  From what was originally six pounds of fruit, I now had a little over three cups of juice with a specific gravity of 1.038.  It will need sugar, but it is packed full of flavor and will be the inspiration for many adventures to come.

Now that I have gone through this I am left with lingering questions that I want to someday resolve.  First, why did I bother skinning the fruit?  I saw a lot of articles on the internet about using a food processor to break up the goody for juicing.  What is wrong with putting the entire fruit in the food processor, then cooking it down and straining it?  Would the spines not get strained out?   Would there be any off flavors produced?  How do companies that sell prickly pear products do it on a large scale?

The other thing I discovered is that while the fruit looked ripe from the outside, some of the pulp was more kiwi green on the inside.  Is this going to make a difference?  Some fruit is still good when it is a little green.

If you know the answers to these questions or have anything else to add, please do.   Expect to someday see the final product of my prickly pear adventures.


Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Prickly Pears


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