Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cactus + Alcohol = delicious

If there's one thing I've learned since we moved to the Sonoran Desert, it's that you can garden and eat things from the ground. It just takes some serious labor and love.

I cannot just plant tomatoes, water them every other day, and expect fruit.

That's just silly and naïve. One must do extensive research!

In  fact, I am currently starting my seeds for next years garden. As it takes much love and transitioning to get them ready for Arizona's awful, relentless heat!

One thing we've really embraced this year - is making use out of our cacti. We have a beautiful prickly pear cactus in the corner of our yard that bears wonderful fruit!

What does prickly pear look like again?
There are 2 distinct parts to the prickly pear. The green paddles (nopales) and the purple prickly pears.
Harvesting these isn't always fun. You will get hairs and thorns impaled into your skin. Unless you were smart and perhaps wore gloves?
The nopales paddles remind me of something similar in flavor to green beans, asparagus, soft bell peppers, tomatillos ? (if those 4 vegetables were to mate....). You slice off the outer skin (swallowing cactus thorns is not recommended). Sautee it with oil, salt, & pepper. It is delicious! Great in salsa, tacos, salads, ect!
Finished Product:

Now for the prickly pears - there is a little labor that goes into it! We have tried jam, jelly, juice, and lemonade at the local farmers' market. Which are good. But to be honest, we aren't big jam/jelly people. And I'd probably turn the lemonade into an alcoholic beverage by the pool.
We have had prickly pear margaritas at the Marriot Star Pass resort - and loved them. So decided on making drunken prickly pears.
Step 1: Harvest your prickly pears
Step 2: Slice off the tough outer skin. (This process is amazing. They look so dry, and when you cut into them - they bleed purple liquid!
(they kind of remind me of beets! In fact, they almost taste like a sweet seedy beet)
Step 3: Quarter your pears, and place in mason jar. Fill mason jar with your alcohol of choice. We did 3/4 of our jars with vodka. The other 1/4 we did tequila.
Step 4: Leave in fridge for several days (3-4). They are a very strong fruit, so don't require quite as long to infuse!
Step 5: Strain out your fruits. Make sure you collect the liquid/juice you're straining!! Have a bowl under the colander!
Step 6: Process your fruits into a pulp.
Step 7: Back to the strainer! (or cheese cloth may work well for this, too). Your goal is to
 separate pulp from the seeds. This takes about 10-15 minutes. When it's all strained - all that will be left is clumps of seeds. That can be disposed.
Step 8: Add your pulpy liquid to your liquid your strained out earlier, and stir well. Your prickly pear infused liquor is ready to enjoy!!
(This recipe made about 6 mason jars of liquor.)
Step 9: Enjoy in your drink of choice. We added 1/2 cup lime concentrate, 1/4 cup triple sec, ice, and made a blended drink for the pool!
What I like about prickly pear - is that it's not extremely sweet. Which makes sense, when you think of the harsh tree it comes from. There are actually quite a few health benefits (and remedies) behind prickly pears. Mexican culture has used it to treat viral infections, hang-overs, GI-upset, and lowering blood sugar!
Have you ever tried cactus? What did you think?


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

That is awesome that you have found such a great use for something that you might have overlooked in the past. I have had cactus in that salad that I usually ordered at Cabo Fish Taco but that's it. I bet I would like a prickly pear margarita! So fun and I love the vibrant color!

Marlys said...

Beautiful looking finished product! I know I have had a prickly pear drink somewhere but didn't even realize it came from cacti! It looked like quite the process but the end result is awesome!