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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Recipe for Prickly Pear Fruit (Tuna) Jam

Q. I remember that you had posted an article about making jelly/jam from the flower pods of the Indian Cactus. I have several of these cacti and would like to try making the jelly/jam. Would you please repost or send me the procedure for doing this.

A. There is a big variation in the quality of fruits produced by cactus. There are selections of Indian Fig cactus or Opuntia or Nopales that produce better quality fruit, better taste, than others. 

One way you can measure this is by bird damage. If the birds are not annihilating your cactus fruit then my guess will be the fruit is not that good. Typically, birds ravage the good ones and seldom touch the ones that are not so good. 
Bird damage to the nopal fruit (tunas) indicating they are a sweet fruit good for eating and preserving.

Sugar content of these fruits or tunas as Mexicans call them can get to a similar range as table grapes or apples. I have attached the book on it that I produced and you can download it. I will also post it on my blog for people to download.

Translated from Spanish so the English is a little awkward.

From M.V. Fernandez and J.C. Morales
University of Sonora-Hermosillo

Jam of Prickly Pear


2.2 lbs (1kg) of prickly pear fruit (tunas) peeled (15 tunas approximately)
3 1/2 cups of sugar (840 g)
1 tablespoon of pectin
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Cut prickly pears in pieces and blend only half of them. Keep the rest. (Because the seeds are very hard, I pureed all the fruit and strained the pulp.) Put blended fruit into a pan and cook over medium heat; as soon as it begins to boil, add the pectin, the sugar and the lemon juice. Keep stirring the mixture constantly with the spoon. Once it starts the first boil, while stirring, add the remaining fruit if you desire. Remove the jam from the heat when it acquires a thick consistency and when shaking pan the bottom can be seen (more or less after one hour). Put the hot jam into the sterilized container immediately. (Our test jam cooked more quickly.  Be careful not to overcook.)

Packaging and Preservation for safety

On a dry cloth, place the sterilized bottles or jars. Pour in the still hot jam, with help of a spoon, leaving a minimum space of a half inch between the mouth of the bottle and the jam. Allow some steam to escape and close it tightly to form vacuum. Let cool to room temperature and place a label in the bottle with the product name and date.

Jam will be ready for its consumption in 12 hours after it was prepared. This jam will keep for a year in a fresh and dry place. Once opened, the jam must be refrigerated and consumed in a month.

Alternative ingredients:

The lemon juice can be replaced by ¼ tablespoon of ascorbic acid or one crushed Vitamin C tablet of 500mg.


To keep the jam in good condition, sterilize the bottles and the cover in the following way: wash them thorougly, retire the labels and put them to boil (with enough water so they keep cover all time) during 15 minutes counted from the first fervor or boiling. Taking off by far care, with the aid of clamps or a knife in a hand and a dry rag in the other; place the bottle and the cover on a totally dry and clean cloth (if no, the bottle can be broken). Do not touch the jam with the hands when it is still hot, since it can cause a serious burn.

To take a small taste of the jam before complete the heat treatment, take a few with a spoon, drain it in a plate, and leave it to cool completely.

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