Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Prickly Pear Jam from the Canyon

I had been waiting all summer for those Yellow cactus flowers to turn to purple red fruits. Elsie Cly had promised to take me into the canyon to pick prickly pears.
The day we went happened to be one of the wettest days in the canyon this summer. I drove our little black jeep with mud spewing over the roof and Elsie hanging on to the passenger bar in front of her yelling, "Don't stop. Just don't stop." I don't know which was worse the deep sand or the mud and water. "Karen," Elsie said, "go left here". I veered left. "No the other left. follow the tracks out of the water."

There were at least ten different tire treads leading out of the mud and quicksand. "No! the other left!" And then, "Karen this is the place where anyone can get stuck. Not just you. Don't stop. " And Eslie's famous advice "Be careful here."
We finally made it to the first patch of prickly pears. The recipe I found on line said I needed fifty. Elsie used the tongs I brought to twist the prickly fruit from the thorned cactus paddles and I used my garden gloves.

We picked a bucket full and got back into the jeep.
Each patch of prickly pears we passed looked bigger and riper than the last so we had to stop again and again, filling basket and bucket. My eyes much bigger than my ability to prepare the pears.

When we determined that I had more than enough red fruits, well over 50...It was time to clean off the prickles. The internet said to hold each one over the flame of the stove burner and turn it gently. Elsie had a better, Navajo method. We stopped and picked bundles of Rabbit brush.

Then we laid out a layer of brush on the

ground, dumped the pears on top and swept them round and round with bunches of the green brush with tiny yellow flowers. Sure enough the fruits were shiny and prickerless by the time we finished.
Back through the mud nearly stuck twice but we made it with Elsie exclaiming "We are the wild women!"
The real work began at home where pealing and getting the seeds out of one pear the size of my thumb left me with the usable fruit about the size of the tip of my pinky finger. But with some perseverance and experimentation (no pectin at the local grocery), I now have eight jars of prickly pear jam

and tons of pears left for some salsa? juice? relish? Yummm.


TheCremerFamily said...

That is so cool! What an awesome experience!!! I would have loved to be in that jeep in the mud! :) Glad you didn't get stuck in quicksand!!!

Barbara O'Connor said...

Stop making me seem so boring.

Calabria said...

Prickly pears, I love them. When I was a little girl and spent my summers in Calabria Italy we ate them all the time. What did you use to pick them? You should try making granita (Slush) out of them It is so good.