The other day, I stumbled upon some gorgeous purple prickly pear at the farmer’s market. I’ve seen them on the roadside in the past few weeks, ripe and beautiful. But never have I had the nerve to stop and pick them. Besides, they have spines that will definitely cause some painful regret if you grab them bare-handed. But lucky for me, these kind farmers had already removed all the pain from my fruits, and so they were ready and waiting for me.
Only I didn’t really know what to do with them.
I asked the farmer – they said they juiced them. Said that you can eat them raw, but that they are not actually sweet. I happily took them home (with color like that, how could I not?) and started to look around for inspiration.
Most of what I saw was jelly, juicing, and….margaritas. Somehow, that’s where my attention stayed. It might be autumn tomorrow, but around here, it’s always margarita season. And what better twist to a traditional margarita than to add prickly pear?
I made a simple fruit syrup with the prickly pear, strained it, and then went to town. With a little lime, tequila, and Cointreau, and I had a drink worthy of a party, right in my little hand. The color is spectacular (yes, it really is that bright!), and the drink is floral, subtly sweet, sour from the lime, and of course, the tequila is definitely there to give you the strength and punch you need in a good margarita.
Of course, this prickly pear syrup is good for more than alcoholic drinks, although I have no problem using it for just that. Add it to some club soda, add a spritz of lime juice, and you have a nice kid-friendly prickly pear soda. You could also stir some into a glass of iced tea.
Me? I might just stick to the tequila. At least with this batch. Don’t judge.
- 5-6 prickly pears, spines removed (store-bought should be spine-free, but if you harvest your own, follow these steps)
- 2 c water
- ¾ c granulated sugar
- Slice the prickly pears in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Roughly chop the flesh. Add the prickly pears, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the liquid is reduced.
- Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and carefully pour the prickly pear and juice through the sieve. Press the pulp and seeds against the sieve with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all the juice. Throw away the pulp and seeds.
- Place the juice in a jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Use in sodas, teas, or margaritas.
- 2½ oz tequila blanco
- ½ oz Cointreau (or triple sec)
- 1½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
- 2 oz Prickly Pear Syrup
- Margarita salt, for glass (if desired)
- Wet the rim of a margarita glass with a cut lime and dip into margarita salt, if desired. Fill halfway with ice.
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and Prickly Pear Syrup. Shake well, and strain into the margarita glass. Serve.
- Makes 1 generous margarita.