Recipe: Prickly Pear Cheesecake

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This is one of the more involved recipes we’ve created. The upside, though, is that it yields several products which can be used for all kinds of other experiments. So bear with us, dear reader, the result is well worth it!

In Texas, there is no shortage of cacti. We use it in landscaping, but it also turns up wherever it pleases, as it rightly should. A wonderful plant, the maligned cactus has a myriad of uses, not the least of which involve its succulent pads. An important water source in the dry times, this seemingly hostile plant can actually be a lifesaver.

Still, in more docile times, the fruits of this plant especially are a wonderful Summer treat. Over the past year, we’ve experimented with prickly pears quite a bit, but the idea of a prickly pear cheesecake seemed perhaps our greatest idea yet.

To start, you’ll need to make a basic prickly pear syrup. This means foraging for a decent bag of prickly pears! Easy to find in sunny areas along roadsides or other dry, open areas, prickly pear cacti love to grow in bunches so gathering a large amount quickly is no problem. The purple fruit are in season between August all the way into October sometimes. Avoid ones that have a gray, waxy residue on them, but if they’re still a little green it’s perfectly fine.

Once you’ve brought them home, either scrub the fine prickles off using a knife under running water or burn them off over a flame. Peel them and then add about 2 cups to a large pot and cover about 1/2 an inch with water. Bring them to a boil then mash and let them simmer about an hour.  Strain the liquid through a mesh sieve, then through a cheesecloth. It should taste slightly sweet, like muted watermelon.

Measure the liquid, then replace into the pot with the following ratio: 4 pt. prickly pear juice, 2 pt. sugar, 1 pt. lime juice. Alternatively: 2 cups juice, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lime juice. Bring it to a boil for 1 minute and continue stirring then reducing it into a syrup. Cool and taste it, adding lime or sugar and reheating as necessary.

For the topping, you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups diced, seeded and peeled prickly pears

3/4 cup diced lime

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until it reduces down, about half an hour to 45 minutes.

To make the cheesecake itself, you’ll first have to make the crust. You’ll need 2 cups of mesquite flour and 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Next combine the butter and flour to make a crumbly mix, similar to a graham cracker crust. Press the mix into a spring form pan and bake for 5 minutes.

For the cheesecake, you’ll need:

3 8oz cream cheese packages

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

Beat the cream cheese, prickly pear syrup and sugar until well blended. Next add the sour cream and eggs, one at a time. Mix well between each addition, but be careful to not over-mix your eggs!

Gently pour the mixture over your crust and bake for 1 hour, until is almost set. Next let it cool and remove it from the pan. Chill for 3 – 4 hours, top with the compote and serve!

The recipe for teh topping can be used for any fruit compote, and is a delicious dessert in its own right. The syrup is an amazing condiment and can be used in a wide range of recipes, from barbecue sauces to homemade sodas.

-Enjoy!

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