If you have ever lived in Texas or the Southwest US, you are familiar with prickly pear cactus. They are also prolific in South Africa, which totally surprised me….thought I had been transported. They have beautiful yellow blooms in spring and then these bright magenta pods form….called ‘tunas’. In a place where everything is brownish, they really stand out….and they are edible, in fact….delicioso !!! I stopped by my favorite Mexican grocery store, which is a very small, cramped space where you can get any & everything you could get in Mexico. There is Mexican chocolate, more types of peppers than I knew existed, raw sugar cones (piloncillos), rows of canned goods, dried beans, rice, mole AND fresh produce….everything brought in from Mexico to the East Coast. They have a little cafe in back and at lunch there are crates of tortas & tacos taken out to the construction workers in the area. And there amongst the limes, radishes, yucca, nopale (cactus paddles) & plantains. And they had ‘tunas’, too, which turn a brownish-purple when ripe. Amazingly, the juice is the bright magenta color & has a light sweetness which haunts. I’ve seen people cut them with a pocket knife & eat them on the streets in Mexico, but I would ruin my clothes since they are very juicy when ripe and the bright pink juice stains.
Lucky for me, friends send me commercial prickly pear syrup and puree….you see, I love Prickly Pear Margaritas….oh yeah !! I have found a restaurant that serves them, as well as Spicy Hot Margaritas, but it is so nice to make one & sit on the deck after a really hot day. I decided to make Prickly Pear-Habanero Jam, which would also work on soft cheese for an appetizer & over ice cream, too.
This was one of my no-recipe, cook to taste, spur of the moment creations. It is adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe published in 1996.
Prickly Pear Habanero Jam
Makes 1 cup
Peel 2 prickly pear tunas. Chop in bowl & mash with back of fork. Add 4 T sugar & juice of 1/2 lime. Stir in 1/3 c. water & put in non-reactive sauce pan. Add 1 habanero with several slits or you can seed the pepper, if you like. Boil until reduced and slightly thickened. Add a splash of GrandMarnier, Cassis or Chambord & 1 tsp. pectin. Stir with a metal whisk for 1 minute to dissolve pectin, while bringing sauce to a rolling boil for about 3 min. Remove from heat & allow to cool. Taste frequently on the ‘heat level’ as the habanero will seep it’s oil quickly. Remove when sauce is the right heat for you.
Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator or you can freeze for up to a year. This sauce is frequently used over fish, pork or chicken as well as a dessert sauce.
Serve on cheese, with desserts or drizzle in soda water or lemon-limeade for instant refreshment. You can also mix with cocktails, particularly tequila or any pomegranate drink. Buenos Dios !!