It’s hard to believe so much color and flavor come from this little red fruit that grows atop the nopal cacti throughout California and the Southwest. The prickly pear’s deep magenta flesh makes a lush, jewel-toned sorbet. In this version, the fruit’s sweet, watermelon-like flavor is offset with a subtle kick of spice.
7 to 8 ripe red prickly pears
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 serrano chili
To extract the juice, slice the prickly pears in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, getting as close to the skin as possible. (Caution: Prickly pears can have invisible spines on their skin, so consider wearing rubber or gardening gloves while handling them.) Pulse the prickly pear flesh in a blender for 5 to 10 seconds to separate the flesh from the seeds. Pour the contents of the blender through a fine-mesh strainer. Stir for several minutes to extract as much juice as possible and discard the seeds and thick pulp that remain. There should be about 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cups of juice.
In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the prickly pear juice, lemon juice, and lime juice. Using a fine grater or Microplane, grate the sides of the serrano chili all the way around, avoiding the seeds in the middle. Add half the chili to the juice mixture and taste for spiciness. Grate and add more chili if desired. Refrigerate the mixture until completely chilled through, about 3 hours or overnight.
To make the sorbet, turn on the ice cream maker and pour in the chilled prickly pear mixture. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or process until the sorbet is thickened and velvety in consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately for a softer sorbet. For firmer consistency, transfer the sorbet to a container and freeze for at least 3 hours, allowing the sorbet to soften for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.
Availability Latin American groceries from August to December; also sold as red tunas or red cactus fruit
Selection Deep magenta, uniformly colored fruit that is firm but yields to pressure
Storage Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate for up to 4 days
Safety Wear gloves while handling to avoid invisible but prickly spines
Recipe reprinted from The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook. Copyright © 2018 by Laura McLively. Photography by Erin Scott. Published by Parallax Press.