This prickly pear syrup recipe is a great way to use up prickly pears when they’re in season. The syrup mixes well in margaritas and plain or sparkling water, but it also serves well as a flavorful drizzle over pancakes and ice cream.
WHAT ARE PRICKLY PEAR (ALSO KNOWN AS “TUNA”) FRUIT?
The fruit of the nopales cactus is the prickly pear. These cacti have a paddle covered in thick, sharp needles, as shown below. The cactus paddles (also known as “nopales”) are edible despite the needles.
Some individuals enjoy eating the green paddle (it actually tastes similar to green beans). I usually remove the thorns and use the green paddles to make cold process soap, but I’ve also pickled them and eaten them in salsa.
Identifying and Harvesting Cactus Fruit
Cactus fruit is shaped like pears and grows on the cactus’ flat pads’ edges. They differ in color from green (less sweet) to crimson (very tasty), with orange colors in between. The little spots on them are glochids, which are small hair-like splinters that can pierce your skin and are exceedingly painful and difficult to spot. When picking prickly pear cactus fruit, keep your hands safe.
Thick gloves or a couple of layers of an old towel can be used. It’s also possible that stacking six paper towels together will suffice. Gently twist the fruit in your hands using gloves or cloths. Greener fruits will require a tighter grip and more twisting, but riper fruits will easily pop off with little effort. Toss the fruits together in a basin or basket. Avoid touching the fruit with your hands.
How To Peel Prickly Pear Fruit
Once the prickly pears have been cleaned, they are easy to prepare. Make sure you have a chopping board, a sharp knife, and a pair of thick gloves on hand.
#1: Cut the prickly pear in half and remove the two ends. Keep the scraps in your compost.
#2: Cut a 1/8-inch-deep slice lengthwise down the body of the prickly pear.
#3: Gently press your finger into the skin and peel it back. The prickly pear’s skin is wrapped around it, and peeling it off is straightforward once you get started.
Once the skin has been removed, set aside to use in your compost pile.
PRICKLY PEAR SYRUP
To begin creating this syrup, you must first create prickly pear juice. To make the smoothie, place the fruits in a blender with 1/2 cup of water and process until smooth. Prickly pears are naturally juicy, but the addition of water makes the mixture more fluid and ideal for use as a syrup.
These cactus fruits feature hard seeds that don’t completely break down and are actually easier to extract if they stay whole. So only blend for as long as the flesh has to be liquefied (10-30 seconds depending on blender)
After blending, transfer the prickly pear mixture into a saucepan via a fine mesh strainer. To speed up the procedure, use a spoon.
On the stovetop, the juice is brought to a boil and slightly reduced. After that, add the agave syrup (3/4 to 1 cup) and bring to a boil to dissolve and blend with the juices. Although you may use another sweetener in this syrup, agave is a great option.
It has a bland flavor and grows in the same places as prickly pears. It also has a significantly sweeter flavor than sugar. As a result, you’d need a lot more sugar to get the necessary sweetness if you went that approach.
Allowing the syrup to cool before adding fresh lime juice is the final step. This gives an already excellent syrup more acidity and flavor. Lime additionally extends the shelf life of the syrup.
HOW TO USE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS SYRUP
This syrup can be used for a wide range of purposes. A blended cocktail like a margarita is one place where I advocate utilizing it. Instead of using simple syrup and prickly pear juice to make a margarita, you may just use this syrup.
Another alternative is to mix it with a glass of cool ordinary or sparkling water, which is perfect if you fail to drink enough water. The following are some further applications:
Instead of maple syrup, drizzle this over pancakes.
Instead of standard strawberry, caramel, or chocolate sauce, use it as a sauce on an ice cream sundae.
As a dressing for a fruit salad, toss with fresh seasonal berries and fruit.
Infuse it into a vinaigrette for a tossed green salad with bitter greens such as kale, endive, and radicchio, among other things.
Use some of this prickly pear syrup instead of brown sugar, honey, or other sweeteners in your morning oatmeal.
Once the syrup is cooked, it will store in the fridge for a number of weeks at least. However, because this recipe yields 2 to 3 cups of syrup, you may not be able to use it all in that time.
Fortunately, you can freeze it in ice cube trays to keep it fresh for longer. These ice cubes are perfect for cold margaritas, smoothies, and even melting down to a pourable consistency.