When I lived in Arizona, we practically lived on candy made from Prickly Pear. It was everywhere. I didn’t have to make it, because it was readily available in every store within walking distance and beyond. I loved my time in Arizona for so many reasons, and I long to move back there some day. It probably won’t happen. But a girl can dream. And in the mean time, I made Prickly Pear Gum Drops.
Did you see these fun Prickly Pear Gum Drops made from Cactus Fruit?
In the meantime, I can at least give myself a little taste of Arizona via some homemade Prickly Pear Gum Drops.
I’ll be totally honest, I was not convinced this was going to work. We make fruit gum drops all the time, but this is prickly pear fruit (cactus fruit) which for whatever reason, is just different than regular fruit and different to work with.
But guess what? It totally worked. It’s great!
Just a note: I am in Missouri. St. Louis to be exact, and both of our local chain grocery stores carry Cactus Fruit/Prickly Pear fruit. It seems to be slightly seasonal appearing mostly in the spring/summer months. It’s in a really small section by itself, but you might consider asking your produce manager if they ever get it in. It was super easy to find for me, but since then some are saying they can’t find it at all.
Update June 2013: I asked our local Schnucks produce manager about the cactus fruit and he said they get what they get. They get a very small amount and sometimes it goes really fast, and other times it lasts for a bit. Find out when your local store gets their shipments in and that might help.
Cactus Fruit | Prickly Pear Gum Drops
- 1/2 cup ripe prickly pear cactus fruit peeled, pureed and de-seeded
- 1 1/2 cups plain no sugar added applesauce
- 3 teaspoons of powdered pectin I used Sure Jell
- 2 1/2 cups sugar divided
- Sugar for dusting each gumdrop at the end
Spray an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then set it aside.
In a large saucepan, combine the pureed and de-seeded prickly pear cactus fruit with the applesauce.
Whisk the pectin and a 1/2 cup sugar together in a small bowl. Once mixed well, add to the cactus fruit.
Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of your saucepan and bring your mixture to a boil.
Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of sugar.
Bring everything to a boil and stir constantly until your mixture reaches 225°. (this took me less than 5 minutes)
Remove from saucepan from the heat. (and shake your arm from all that stirring!)
Pour the hot mixture into your 8x8 prepared glass dish.
When slightly cool (about an hour), sprinkle sugar on top.
Allow to set several hours (this is going to vary depended on your weather, humidity outside/inside. I recommend letting them dry at least 12 hours. (Seems like 12+ is the magic number so plan ahead)
Once the candy is mostly set, enough to cut, cut your mixture into 1-inch squares, or use a mini cookie cutter sprayed with non-stick cooking spray to make hearts, flowers, whatever - though if you plan to use anything other than just a sharp knife, you might need to let them dry even longer, though they will dry better when cut.
Dredge in some sugar and allow to dry another 6+ hours or overnight on a piece of parchment paper. Store covered for up to two weeks.
Have you ever used a unique ingredient to create candy?