Rusty Ramirez, cook at EXO, with one of the delicious breakfasts she serves with her homemade barrel cactus jam.
I just love to make jam. It’s Carolyn with you today and over the years in this blog I’ve shared with you lots of jam recipes, some with prickly pear, lots with citrus. It does something to my soul to stand over a simmering pot of fruit and end up with glistening glass jars full of jewel-toned deliciousness. Today I want to talk about lemony-tasting barrel cactus jam.The issue with it and all jams is the sugar. Most jams take lots of sugar, at least as much sugar as fruit, sometimes more. Try reducing the sugar and you end up with runny jam.
But while doing research for my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, I had the opportunity to interview lots of professional cooks. What fun that was, and I always learned something. From Rusty Ramirez, the breakfast cook at EXO Coffee Roasters here in Tucson, I learned there is a way to make jam with less sugar. You use a product called Pomona Low Sugar Pectin.
There is a book I found with recipes using this product, and if you’d like to begin making jams with less sugar, it might be a good idea to try some of these recipes before modifying them with different fruit. When I get inspired, I’ll see what I can do about prickly pear jam. If you are used to making jam the old-fashioned way, you’ll find this a somewhat different process.
Rusty did her own research and came up with a formula to use the Pomona Low Sugar Pectin to make barrel cactus jam. EXO serves it for breakfast on the fabulous bread from Barrio Bread made with heritage grains.
Cut barrel cactus fruit ready to be sliced and cooked.
I won’t be able to share all the stories in A Desert Feast with you until September, but I’m going to give you a sneak peak with Rusty’s recipe now. Rusty includes the seeds in her jam. If you don’t want to do that, in a previous post, I gave you a great recipe to use the seeds in a cheesy-rich appetizer.
EXO Coffee Roasters Barrel Cactus Jam
25-30 ripe barrel cactus fruits
½ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons of Pomona Low Sugar Pectin
4 teaspoons calcium water (instructions on how to make it are included in the pectin box)
Rinse the fruits, cut off the tops and bottoms, and chop roughly. Place the chopped fruits into a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan and add water to about an inch over the fruits. Bring the water to a hard boil, and then reduce the heat to a slow boil for 30 minutes.
While the fruit is boiling, whisk together the sugar and pectin in a bowl and set aside.
When the fruit is cooked, remove from the heat and place into a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth in a sink. You should have about 3 cups. Rinse the fruit with cold water until there isn’t much mucilage left in the fruits. They should be tender when you squeeze them. The seeds will collect at the bottom, You can add them to the marmalade or dry them in the oven to snack on later.
Transfer the cooked and rinsed barrel cactus fruits back into the saucepan with 4 teaspoons of calcium water and the 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Stir well with a heat proof spatula. Bring the fruit to a soft boil and add the sugar/pectin mixture to the pot slowly while continuously stirring the fruit so that the pectin doesn’t clump. Before you remove the marmalade from the heat, make sure that all of the sugar/-pectin mixture has dissolved. Put your sterilized jars on a heat-resistant surface. Carefully ladle the marmalade into the jars, filling to the neck and leaving about a half inch at the top.
Cover with the lids and let the marmalade cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to three months.
If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a complilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. In September, there will be a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about them at www.cniethammer.com.
Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.