Save money by drinking at home and impress your friends over Labor Day with this prickly-pear margarita that uses homemade nectar.
Prickly pear fruit, called tunas, are in season right now, and you can buy them in Latino groceries. But it’s free to forage them from vacant lots, alleys and anywhere you encounter an available stand of cacti heavy with fruit.
These came from a cactus down the street, in front of a house that’s being flipped.
Make sure you don’t drink any tequila prior to this task. Falling into a prickly pear cactus could cause serious injury. For real, be careful.
It would be smart to use tongs to pull the tunas off the prickly pear. But I don’t own tongs, so I just used ski gloves (because I also don’t own work gloves). It worked fine, but I did get a few stickers under my skin, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to get all of those fine little stickers out of my ski gloves. There are brighter ideas.
Choose the ripest tunas, which are deep purple.
Once your tuna booty is harvested (pull 2-3 pounds of fruit), it’s easy to take the stickers off. Just throw them into a colander and swirl it under running water. The agitation quickly removes the stickers.
Next, slice off each end of the fruit, then score one side. Peel off the skin.
Prickly pear fruit is similar in consistency to kiwi, but they have big hard seeds, so it takes a bit of processing to make the nectar.
Puree the fruit in a blender or food processor. Strain the puree through the washed colander.
Make the nectar
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the fruit puree, half a cup of water and a cup of sugar, and bring it to the boil. I add a scant pinch of salt, because I think it brings out the sweetness. You could also mix in aromatics such as fresh mint or vanilla bean.
Let simmer for 20 minutes and cool.
Strain the cooled mixture through a fine sieve, if you have one. I don’t, but I did find cheesecloth and used that instead.
Pour the nectar into salad-dressing bottles that you’ve been hoarding because they were too cute to throw away. Or like, a small pitcher or jar.
This makes a cute gift for a friend or neighbor. Drizzle it onto fruit or waffles or add it to your fizzy water or iced tea.
Or make cocktails: