Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prickly Pear Syrup

We ended up with a decent amount of prickly pear juice from our five gallons of fruit. Since I have a tendency to forget things in the fridge (only to be discovered by my frustrated husband a couple of weeks latter), we froze a little over half the juice for future projects. I have also learned when working with something new it isn't a pleasant surprise to make one huge batch of something only to find out you don't really care for it. This happened with our prickly pear jam that we made last year. I'm not a big jam person in the first place, but the stuff tasted like jolly ranchers. Waaaay to sweet for my breakfast taste. Learning from that experience, I started small with our prickly pear syrup experiment.

Standard syrup recipes seem to go for a 1:1 ratio of sugar to juice. Prickly pear juice is fairly sweet on its own, so I decided to use a 1:2 ratio of sugar to juice. I think it resulted in a thinner syrup, but that's ok since I am mostly using my syrup for drinks. Even with a 1:2 ratio this stuff is pretty sweet, and you could certainly up the amount of lemon juice you put in it if you'd like to tart it up a bit.

You might be asking yourself, what does prickly pear taste like. People generally describe it as being watermelonesk. While this is pretty close, I think Jeff described it perfectly when he said it tasted like watermelon mixed with peach. For some reason the juice got a little smokey touch to it after I simmered it (maybe from the thorn removal). I don't remember it being that way when we drank it fresh.

Plain Prickly Pear Syrup

6 cups of prickly pear juice
3 cups of sugar
3 lemons

1) Stain your prickly pear juice so its nice and clear. First run it through a metal mesh strainer and then through cheese cloth.

2) Add the prickly pear juice, the sugar and the juice of three lemons to a pot and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. If you like to can you can water bath can the syrup to make it shelf stable. If you will be using your syrup as a mixer for alcoholic beverages, you can add a shot of vodka to it  (works as a preservative) and store it in the fridge.

Some fun additions you can add if you plan to use the syrup for things such as french toast are cinnamon and vanilla. I split my batch in two and added one stick of cinnamon to it while it simmered and then let it steep in the syrup for about an hour afterwards. When I bottled it I just removed the stick and added a tiny splash of vanilla extract. If you have a vanilla bean you could use that instead and just let it steep along with the cinnamon. The spiciness of the cinnamon complimented the sweet of the syrup nicely.

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