One of the exotic sights to see in Crete is the Prickly Pear (Opuntia Ficus-Indica).  Here they grow to enormous size in the wild, and in late August can have myriad blooms from which develop the fruits.  These can be used in making prickly pear jam.

Using these you can make a great jam, with a very unusual taste. So here is making prickly pear jam:

Watch out for the prickles!

The process is fiddly, we only made it every couple of years!  One of the problems is that the fruits have tiny spikes, thinner than a human hair but very sharp. 

Just brushing your bare skin against them will give you countless tiny prickles which itch and irritate.  Then getting them out is a painstaking job with tweezers and very good eyesight!  

How we pick the fruit

So when we pick them we use gloves and tongs to twist them off the Prickly Pear lobes.

Getting rid of the prickles

Once picked you need to remove these prickles to be able to handle the fruit.  The neat way is to briefly burn them on a gas hob. 

Rotate the fruit so that all the surfaces, and all the prickles are scorched off.  This also gives the flesh an interesting slightly smoky taste. Check out how we do it.

Making the jam

Cut these fruit in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a teaspoon and put to one side.  Flatten the halves and then gently scrape out the flesh and liquidize. 

Turn to the seeds and work out juices by pressing thru a sieve, pressing the mixture with a spoon or the back of a plate until the remainder is paste like.  Add the extracted juice to the liquidized flesh.  Strain this pulp thru a sieve to remove all seeds.

Mix the pectin with the lemon juice and add the sugar and the ginger.  Add this to the pulp and bring to boil in a big heavy bottomed jam saucepan, stirring regularly. We were lucky to find a Lagostina Italian pan in Synka on offer some time ago – it’s a real gem, with a heavy bottom that spreads the heat without burning.   We also add the lemon skins from squeezed juice too.  Bring to a rapid boil for 3 minutes, with a jam thermometer you should get to 105 deg Celsius.

Testing the set

To test for set, you need to rapidly cool the jam and see how thick it gets.  We do this by chilling plates in the freezer and pouring a teaspoon of jam onto one.  After 2-3 mins it should be set.  You can also use dessert spoons chilled in iced water – add the jam to one and lay on ice for a couple of minutes.

Pour into clean glass jars heated in the oven to 100 deg for a few minutes.  Its good to have a wide necked funnel to get the mixture in, and if you’ve got jam-jar lids with a dimple in the middle, you can check that they have sealed if the dimple inverts when it cools.  But it keeps pretty well anyway, and will be best after at least a few months maturing. So that’s enough to get you making prickly pear jam!

In order to help you, here is our recipe.

More about living in Crete

There is much more in our blogs. These show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sites.  Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.

Chania harbour front by night

This Dream Villa

And if you would like to live in a place where you can see these, here is just the place. This is a dream villa which we designed and built 10 years ago and now reluctantly are ready to sell and move on. Its in the Apokoronas, in the west of the island, 35min drive from Chania, 50min from the international airport. 

The villa by night