When we got back to the kitchen, the first thing to do was wash the prickly pears well. We ran them through 3 changes of water, as they collect a lot of dust out there in the desert. They can also have a sort of waxy coating that may not all come off, even with the most vigorous rinsing, but it's nothing to worry about.
Next, I like to cut them in half so the juices will release more quickly. Hold them with tongs while you do this, to protect your fingers; those little stickers are annoying.
Here's what they look like cut and ready for the kettle. You can carefully scoop out the delicious fresh pulp from the center to eat, but it's pretty seedy, so there's a lot to spit out.
Add a little water - just a cup or two for a large kettle like this one - to get them started cooking down (some recipes say water to cover, but the fruits are really quite juicy and I don't want to dilute the flavor any more than necessary), bring to a boil, and let simmer till the fruits are very soft and have released much of their juice.
Then strain what's in the bowl through a finer mesh strainer - look at all those little black seeds! You don't want them in your jelly.
2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice
1 package powdered pectin (they say it sets more successfully than liquid)
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
Combine pectin and juice in a medium saucepan. I like to whisk them together to ensure the pectin dissolves quickly and evenly.
Note: you can process the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes if you wish.
Prickly Pear Margaritas
6 ounces good quality gold tequila
4 ounces triple sec
4 ounces lime juice
2 ounces prickly pear syrup
1 ounce orange juice
If you're in a place where you have access to these fruits of the desert, please consider taking advantage of them. If you don't have time to make jelly right away (and this applies to any fruit, not just prickly pears), you can freeze the juice to use later, when you do have time. Plastic water bottles work well for that; just remember not to overfill them as liquids expand when they freeze.