Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prickly Pear Syrup

I was inspired to look into more interesting ingredients for my beers and I came across this thread at (thread). They started talking about prickly pear and I was out on a ride that day and started seeing ripe fruit everywhere. Soon after, a nice fellow QUAFFer, Jeff, had some leftover fruit from his yard. His variety of prickly pears are huge, but that makes less work. I plan to try some of the smaller fruit to see how they differ. He told me his way of breaking down the fruit into a syrup, so having no prior experience that is what I went with.
I started with just over 3 lbs of fruit. I held the pears over the stove flame using tongs to burn off the nasty hairs/needles. Be very careful and it would be best to wear gloves in addition to using tongs. The hairs can be very annoying and difficult to remove. (I got a few in my hand while cleaning up). After burning the hairs I cut off the end that had most of the hairs. And then I sliced and diced the rest of the fruit and threw it in the pot.
With all 3 lbs in the pot I added about a cup of water just to insure the fruit wouldn't burn on the bottom. The fruit will produce a good amount of juice on their own. Per Jeff's recommendation I boiled the fruit for 2 hours. This helps to break down the mucus that is found in the fruit.
After boiling I poured it through a strainer and push out as much juice as possible. From there I poured the juice through the some muslin cloth. It happened to be about 16oz and fit nicely into an old water bottle.
I measured the pH to be about 4 and the gravity to be 1.050. The taste was interesting and a bit difficult to describe. It was similar to watermelon but with a little more sour twang. It did have a bit of a cooked flavor which I didn't enjoy too much, so I'm going try to get another variety and use it fresh. I haven't decided if I'm going to add this to a Berliner Weiss or to my sour pale.


  1. nice post. glad you brought these back to my attention as they are ripe and ready right about now! we have always had some optunias growing @ my parents place somehow in the middle of iowa. when i first started brewing, i did some meads and my original thoughts were to make a melomel with them. recently i've been thinking about doing porters with fruit so that might interesting or perhaps even using them in a sour many possibilities! berlinerweiss sounds like a great idea tho. It has been so long since i've had one, i need to re-taste them. a friend of mine recently purchased a prickly pear from a mexican grocery store here in town but it was not ripe and rather moldy. i dont know if i'd go to the effort of making a syrup tho, seems like i'd just cube em up small, freeze em, and add to the secondary. cheers!

  2. I was just eyeing some of these in the store. I'm interested in how this turns out. I was also thinking of adding some to secondary in one of my meads just for kicks.

  3. I made the syrup for a couple reasons: 1. It helps to remove the mucus 2. More space efficient way to store it. I don't have a beer ready for this yet.
    I was out riding the other day and picked a few pounds of another variety, much smaller. I'm going to try to make a fresh syrup out of these. According to the guy I got them from he always boils for at least 2 hrs before he uses them in his mead. The mead was a hit at our homebrew meeting and the interesting part is that it loses almost all its color during aging. I think he uses around 2-2.5 lbs/gal.


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