Anyone who has eaten fresh prickly pears can tell you, despite their juicyness, theirs is a delicate sweetness.
Much like tomatoes, in a way.
We’ve been experimenting with producing different sauces, and syrups, with prickly pears for a long time, on our Wild Pizzas and as a glaze and barbecue sauce with wild game. We’ve found that they can really take on a variety of flavors, similar to tomatoes in many traditional recipes.
peeled, seeded prickly pears (crushed)
prickly pear juice
This recipe is designed to mimic a traditional marinara sauce, for use in Italian style dishes, or on pizza. The fresh cactus pears are excellent at absorbing savory flavors and their light sweetness compliments these sauces in much the same way as ripe tomatoes usually will.
The key ingredients are strained prickly pear juice and several peeled, de-seeded prickly pears. Producing the juice is extremely simple, however skinning and removing the seeds from the whole prickly pears can be time consuming work.
To make the juice, place several whole prickly pears in a large potand cover with water, then boil for about 20-25 minutes, until softened. Afterwards, using a potato masher or other utensil, pulverize the cactus pears in the pot until thouroughly mashed. Next boil them for another 30 minutes and then strain, first through a colander and then a cheese cloth. This method denatures the sharp spines, and enables the pulp and seeds, as well as any spines or glochids, to be removed without having to struggle with them.
Peeling the whole prickly pears and removing the seeds has no easy short-cut though, and is longest part of this process. Remove the tops and bottoms from the pears with a sharp knife and then slice each in half. The seeds can then be scooped out of the centers, and the skins peeled off the fruit using the knife. After which, both the whole fruits and juice can be combined in a large pot with all of the seasonings and brought to a simmer.
After the mixture begins to boil, and the prickly pears halves start to break down, they can be crushed using a mallet, spoon or immersion blender. The entire sauce should then be allowed to further reduce down, and seasoning adjusted for taste. Once the desired thickness is achieved, remove the sauce from heat and add the juice of 1-2 limes before transferring the sauce to jars for storage.
We’ve had so much success with these prickly pear – tomato substitutions. I challenge anyone to come up with a recipe where you couldn’t swap the two out wholesale. Their mild flavor and absorbtion, along with their A-MAZING color, are making them more and more my go-to for all kinds of sauces.