Prickly Pear fruit is one of those rear fruits that grows wild on the side of many roads (and therefore potentially free), is chock-full of nutrients… and is completely ignored by most of us. But everyone likes candy, so here is a great Prickly Pear Candy recipe.
There are many species of Opuntia, native to the Americas. The fruit of this cactus family is commonly referred to as Prickly Pear but is also known as Tuna. The fruits flesh can range from a deep purple to a light yellow-pink color. The fruit contains tiny seeds and perhaps that is why many people shy away from them, but they are tiny and usually just swallowed, like a pomegranate seed.
I was visiting friends in Albuquerque recently and their side yard was covered with these beautiful, ripe fruits. As you can see, this variety’s cladodes, or Nopales, are super spiny so I don’t think they picked them often as many were hard to reach. They seemed quite happy for me to take what I wanted so I grabbed what was within reach and headed home with a bag full. (The best way to pull these off, by the way, is with a pair of tongs and just gently twist them off. The fruits themselves have hairlike spines called glochids and trust me, you do not want those stuck in your skin!)
For the candy, you’ll need about one pound of fruit to get one cup of juice. (You can reduce or double this recipe.) I start by cutting the Prickly Pear in half then scoop the fruit out of the skin using tongs and a spoon. But you can also try to scrub any lingering glochids off in the sink. (I’ve heard you can also singe them off by placing them over a burner on your stove but I haven’t tried that yet myself.)
Throw the scooped out fruit into a blender and puree, then strain out the seeds.
Add the applesauce into a pan, then add the puree and mix.
In a bowl, whisk one cup of sugar with the pectin then add to the fruit mixture. Once the fruit starts to boil, add in the rest of the sugar.
You’ll want to stir constantly while waiting for it to come to temperature, then remove from heat.
Pour the mixture into a greased glass pan. I used a 9×13. If you want thicker pieces, use a smaller pan. After its cooled down, add a sprinkling of sugar on top.
Let set over night, or about 12 hours, then slice into one inch pieces. Place in a baggie of sugar, a few at a time, and shake to coat.
Allow them more time to dry after this. Although you can dig in at this point, I dry them for two more days, rotating occasionally. Store in an airtight jar for a few weeks. (I sent some to my friends in Albuquerque as a hostess/thank you gift. These would also make a great homemade holiday present.)
Prickly Pear CandyPrint Recipe
- 1 cup pureed prickly pear cactus fruit (peeled and de-seeded)
- 3 cups applesauce, sugar free
- 6 tsp pectin
- 5 cups sugar plus more for dredging
Scoop prickly pear flesh from the skin and place in blender; puree.
Strain prickly pear puree to remove seeds and add to a large saucepan
Add applesauce to puree
In a separate bowl, add pectin and one cup of the sugar and whisk together
Add to fruit puree and bring to a boil
Add in the remaining sugar and bring back up to a boil
Stir constantly until your thermometer reaches 225°
Remove from heat and pour into a greased 13x9 pan
Let cool about an hour and sprinkle with sugar
Let dry over night (or around 12 hours)
Cut into one inch squares
Add sugar to a baggie and add a few pieces at a time to cover with sugar
Place on parchment paper and let dry for six hours (or preferably 1-2 more days, turning occasionally)
Store for up to two weeks
These can be eaten after the sugar dredging, but I really like them best after drying for two days. I flip them once or twice a day to help them dry evenly.