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Recipe: Prickly Pear Jam
Recipe: Prickly Pear Jam
Prickly pears, known as bajtar tax-xewk in Maltese, are so abundant over the late summer period that the fruit tends to fall off the cactus and is left there to rot rather than be harvested.
Indigenous to the Americas, the prickly pear cactus, or Indian fig, didn’t find it’s way to the Mediterranean until Christopher Columbus made that iconic journey across the Atlantic. They made their way to Malta around the 15th century probably with the Knights of St John. Since then they have invaded the Maltese countryside, often acting as a barrier to entry between fields.
Growing through the driest months of the summer the fruit is ready for harvest at the end of August or early September.
The fruit range in colour from red, known as Aħmar-Ingliż, white, Abjad-Franċiż and yellow Isfar-Malti, with slightly different flavours in each colour.
Today the prickly pear is so little harvested as people are afraid of the fine hair-like thorns that cover the fruit. With very little protection – even just one side of a cardboard box – the fruit is easily harvested by simply twisting it off the cactus plant.
When left to soak in water for just 10 minutes the thorns fall off the fruit and come to the top of the water. They can then easily be peeled by slicing the tops and tails off the fruit, making a cut through one end of the skin and simply peeling the fruit away.
The waste products – the skins – are used in cosmetics offering skin improving qualities including anti-inflammatories and anti agers.
Traditionally, the Maltese have used the prickly pear in jams as the fruit is abundant in September, a time of year when other fruit is limited. It can be made with prickly pear fruit alone or mixed with apple for added sweetness.
The jam is pretty easy to make and can be made from fresh fruit, or, if you can’t make the jam right away, from frozen. Simply peel the fruit and freeze in manageable sizes and thaw before using.
Watch our prickly pear interview here.
2 cups prickly pears, peeled
2 cup apples, cored and peeled
1 lemon, juice only
3 cups sugar
- Place the prickly pears and the apples into a saucepan and simmer until tender.
- Add the lemon juice and mix well.
- Add the sugar and allow to simmer until the jam has thickened.
- Store in sterilised jars that have been boiled in water for 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool undisturbed for 12 hours.