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Weekender

Prickly pear cobbler and the run away rooster

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I am a vegetarian but I have to agree.....these PETA people sound crazy.

Weekender can you please tell me a little more about what exactly prickly pear cactus is and how you go about cooking and eating it?

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Prickly pear is a cactus with flat, mickey mouse ear, looking pads. Attached to the pads grow prickly pear fruit (apples). They are redish purple, kind of oblong, not quite egg shaped bulbs that are covered in spines. You have to be very careful when you handle these (use pliers until they have been singed). Our scouts singed the spines off by holding the fruit (speared on a sharp stick) in a flame for a minute or two while rotating it to make sure all the spines were burned off. Then you cut them in half lengthwise and spoon out the seeds. Make sure you do a good job with the seeds. Then cut each half into three lengthwise slices and fillet the meat from the skin. We had 4 scout singeing and 4 cutting and peeling for about 40 minutes to get close to 2 quarts of prepared fruit. Then, in a dutch oven we put the fruit, 2 cups of sugar (could have used another cup or so) and a cup of water. We made a bisquick top crust and then pressed some wild mint into it. We set it on a pile of coals and added some more to the top of the oven and cooked it for about 35 minutes. It was pretty good (could have used a little more sugar). Some chunks of fresh apple or pear would have been good with it. Be careful of staining clothes and cutting boards. prickly pear juice is BRIGHT violet. It's hard to describe the taste, I've never really had anything else like it.

 

We also ate prickly pear pad. In the spring new prickly pear pads start to grow from the older more fibrous ones. The new shoots are harvested and then sort of pickled with celantro and onion. We had this with scrambled eggs and tortillas on Saturday and with out the eggs just hot in tortillas on Sunday. We bought the prepared pads at a local grocer. I'm not not sure of the spanish name for this food but I know a few folks who are. When I find out I'll post it.

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Just found the name. They are called Nopalitos...No' - pal - ee - toes. Some web sites say they are cut up adult pads but I have it on good authority that the new spring shoots are the way to go.

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We had three or four different varieties of acorns, everything from live oak to burr oak. The tree the acorn came from determined how to prep it. Dark acorns, live oak, red oak etc. have a lot of Tanin (tanic acid) in them. This tanin must be leached out or the acorn will taste VERY bitter. If you have ever eaten the soft inner shell part of a fresh pecan you know what tanin tastes like. The leaching process is done by boiling the shelled acorns until the water turns brown, then dumping the old water and repeating with fresh until the water runs clear after boiling. Some folks just run the acorns under cold water which works with some types but not others. Burr oaks have very little tanin and can actually be eaten right from the shell. They are also one of the largest acorns. (sidenote: many indian wars were fought over burr oaks...they were very valuable) After leaching you can eat the acorns like any other nut or you can grind them up to make flour. We did both and made bread with the flour. You could probably live on the bread but it was very dry and grainy, and had a dark almost purply tint to it. Eaten just as a nut with a little salt they are similar in taste and texture to almonds.

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