Prickly Pear Jelly

10 prickly pear cactus pears (approximately)
1/4 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cherry flavoring, optional
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid pectin

Pick cactus pears using tongs and leather gloves; store fruit in paper bag until ready to use.

Remove needles by one of the following methods: 1) hold pears (using tongs) over hot stove burner for a few seconds, then scraping off remaining needles with a knife; or 2) wash pears under running water, then brush needles off with a stiff brush.

Line a colander or wire strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth, place strainer over clean bowl and set aside.

Bring boiling water bath canner to a boil, wash and sterilize jars.

Cut cactus pears into quarters and place in saucepan; cover cactus with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 10-15 minutes; mash fruit with a potato masher and continue to boil for 10 minutes longer. Pour cactus pulp into cheesecloth lined strainer and allow juice to drain (discard cheesecloth and remaining pulp).

Measure 4 cups prickly pear cactus juice into clean saucepan; add lemon juice; add sugar and stir to dissolve; add optional cherry flavoring. Over high heat, bring juice and sugar to a full rolling hard boil, one that cannot be stirred down; add pectin quickly and stirring constantly return to a boil; boil hard 1 minute (jelly should drip in a sheet off the edge of a cool metal spoon – as opposed to dripping in a single drip). Remove from heat, skim off foam as needed/desired; ladle hot jelly into prepared jars leaving 1/4-inch head space, cover jars with lids and screw band on snugly. Place jars in boiling water bath. Process jars 10 minutes (at altitudes 2,000 to 6,000 feet). Place processed jars on dish towel to cool for 24 hours; label and date. Serve jelly with bread and butter, on French toast and pancakes, etc.

Makes approximately five 8-ounce jars

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