I just returned to Huntington Beach from a fabulous trip to Monterey with my camera club, the Photographic Society of Orange County. We had a great time on our five-day trip, taking photos and seeing the sights.
I arranged for an agriculture tour for those who wanted to go with Evan Oakes of Agventuretours.com. We thoroughly enjoyed our half-day tour of the Salinas Valley, where most of America’s salad greens are grown. I’m going to get a newspaper column and more than one blog post out of this wonderful experience. Here is info in case you are up that way and want to take a tour.
Ag Venture Tours & Consulting
One of the many things that Evan showed us was a field of prickly pear cactus that had more fruits on them than I’ve ever seen on prickly pear cactus. Evan pointed out that the ripe fruits are rolled to knock off all of the spines before they go to the grocery stores. At a farmer’s market, I touched one and it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. OK, maybe as smooth as one with a diaper rash, but it was not at all prickly. So I bought four, intending to make prickly pear jelly when I got home.
I knew I needed pectin, which is found in large quantities in apples, so I picked a half dozen organic Granny Smith apples from my tree in the backyard. I quartered the prickly pears and cut the apples into eighths, cooking them with just enough water to cover until they were really tender.
I put the cooked fruit through my colander, which I inherited from my Mom. It must be 70 years old. My original plan was to make jelly, but that would have meant composting all that nice fruit pulp. I decided to make prickly pear/apple butter instead.
I cooked the pulp with organic brown sugar and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and mace) until it sheeted off a spoon, then packed it into sterile jelly jars.
The spices overwhelmed the mild flavor of the prickly pears, but it was fabulous on some toast. I may try more prickly pears, fewer apples, and no spice next time to make jelly. I don’t know though. This fruit butter is pretty darn good.
4 prickly pears
water to cover
1.5 cups of organic brown sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground cloves
0.5 tsp ground allspice
0.5 tsp ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp ground mace
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists.)