[Previous entry: "Census workers to find and tag gulches"] [Main Index] [Next entry: "Shopping at CostCo"]
08/03/2006 Archived Entry: "Making Cactus Jelly"
MAKING JELLY FROM PRICKLY PEARS IS JUST AS PAINFUL AS PICKING THE %$#& THINGS. For the last several years, I've faithfully gathered prickly pears from the local environment and attempted to make jelly. It hasn't been pretty. Every version thus far has turned out like syrup (and a few of the variants where I added mint or red wine have turned out just scary -- you could get buzzed on your breakfast pancakes.)
This year I'm using a different approach. I'm making tiny little batches (so there's less to toss when I fail), and making adjustments between batches. Last night was the first batch -- the flavor's great, but it's a thick syrup, not a jelly. And the color is weird: kind of rusty-colored, rather than the bright pink of the cactus pear juice.
Tonight I'm trying again. I think there may be three factors that affected the jelling process:
- Wrong kind of cooking pot I used one of our cheapie aluminum pan to make the syrup. You know, part of the 5-pan set that college kids buy at Dollar General for $10. Most of the non-stick coating was gone, so the syrup came into contact with the aluminum. Many recipes (although not the one I was using) mention using a "non-reactive" pan and specifically advise against aluminum, so tonight's version will be made in a stainless steel pot. BTW, I also suspect that the aluminum pan, which has a tendency to rust when not dried well, was the culprit in the color change of the syrup as well.
- Not cooking long enough The recipe I used said to add the pectin after the syrup was boiling and to boil it for "two or three more minutes". I let it cook for ten, figuring that would allow for our high elevation. Skimming through other recipes after the disaster, I found several that indicated cooking times of up to 30 minutes. Since I'm at a high elevation, I figure letting it boil gently for 45 minutes should be appropriate.
- Using powdered pectin I've always used powdered pectin. For last night's recipe, I used literally double the normal amount, to no avail. One recipe I found specific to cactus pear jelly said that "unless you're a big fan of syrup, use the liquid, not powdered, pectin." So I'm going to be using that for tonight's test.
Posted by Debra @ 10:06 AM CST