Prickly Pear Cactus Juice Recipe

Jul 14th, 2017 | By | Category: beverages, blog, cook something, Grow Something
Cocktail, from Drink the Harvest, Storey Publishing

Prickly Pear Juice Cocktail, from Drink the Harvest, Storey Publishing

Prickly Pear Cactus Juice, from Drink the Harvest, by DeNeice Guest and Nan Chase

Prickly pear cactus grows as a wildflower across much of North America, and the pears — the lustrous magenta fruits called apples or tunas — too often go to waste. It’s no wonder, really, since the fierce spines covering the cactus are a real deterrent. But carefully processed, the juice is delicious and holds no threat of stray fibers.

Pay attention to these harvesting guidelines: Dress in heavy-duty clothing and gloves, and go armed with long-handled tongs; the pears are easy to harvest in midautumn. You may find loads of prickly pears on patches of untended urban wilderness or along country roads, and it takes no time at all to gather a
big basket full. The fruit yields a great deal of juice for its weight.

The juice of prickly pears differs from other juices because it runs in viscous threads instead of a stream of drops; the canning process removes that thickness. Be sure to use lots and lots of cheesecloth layers to strain
out any stray plant spines from the juice.

Prickly pear juice has a light, clean, refreshing fruit flavor and is quite high in vitamin C, so we omit ascorbic acid for processing. Even without ascorbic acid added, this amazing juice held its color for a year. A little bit of sugar, however, brings out the full potential of this juice.

Important: Under no circumstances use a fruit press for this recipe, only boiling water extraction, because tiny spines could lodge in parts of the press.

Makes approximately 6–8 quarts

Prep time: 2–3 hours, plus overnight for juice to settle, plus canning


12–15 pounds ripe prickly pears

Filtered water

Sugar, 2–4 tablespoons per quart of juice (optional, for canning)

  1. Rinse the pears in a colander and place them one by one, using tongs, into a large saucepan. Be careful not to touch the uncooked pears, as they have small spines.
  2. Cover the pears with filtered water and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring and mashing the pears as they cook, or use an immersion blender to grind the prickly pears and break apart the skins and release the juice.

Do not taste the juice until after it is strained, as it still contains tiny cactus spines!

  1. Strain the juice through four layers of dampened cheesecloth over a large bowl. Strain again through four layers of additional (dampened) cheesecloth. Do not squeeze the pulp. Discard both sets of the cheesecloth.
  2. Refrigerate overnight and ladle the juice off any remaining solids.

This juice can be used immediately or
preserved by canning.

Cook’s Tip

Prickly Pear Cactus Juice forms the basis of Prickly Pear Cactus Wine (page 146) and Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup (page 194). Add some to lemonade for a flavor and color boost.

Canning Notes

Measure the juice by carefully ladling it off the sediments.
Pour the measured juice into a nonreactive stockpot.

Simmer juice at 190°F for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add sugar, if using (2–4 tablespoons per quart), and stir to dissolve.

Fill the jars with liquid, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Apply
sterilized lids and bands, being careful not to overtighten. Process both pint and quart jars in boiling-water bath for 15 minutes,
adjusting for altitude (page 63).


“Excerpted from Drink the Harvest (c) by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, photography (c) by Johnny Autry, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”

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