Look at this beautiful fuchsia colored sorbet. Doesn’t this look lovely? It’s Sorbete de Tuna Roja and absolutely delightful. You NEED to try this!!
OK, I’m on a dessert roll although when you finish reading this post you might think I’m on a desert roll. 😉 It’s summertime and dessert is such a nice way to showcase fruit. This time, however, there is no baking. Now, I know some of you, when you read the title, stopped at Sorbete de Tuna Roja. Tuna Sorbet you pondered. Blech!!! How can you do a sorbet with tuna???? Bear with me now and don’t go away just yet. You liked the photo didn’t you? This tastes just as good as it looks. Although I have seen a few recipes for a savory Ahi Tuna Sorbet, the tuna I’m talking about isn’t the fish type tuna of the sea. Instead, “tuna” is Spanish for the cactus pear fruit more commonly called “Prickly Pear.” Some of you are, even now, wondering if you can really eat those things. Yes, you can. Growing up in the rural Southwestern US, I’ve even seen bovine eat prickly pear where it ferments in their stomachs making them somewhat drunk. But people eat prickly pear, too. Hmmm…maybe they saw the cows eat it???? Who knows… but I digress.
In Mexico and the Suthwest US, it’s very common to see prickly pear eaten. In Mexico, street vendors, markets, cafes and high end restaurants sell prickly pear in a variety of ways. Chilled, it is a delightfully refreshing snack eaten just the way it is. Simply peel it and eat it. Very tasty, indeed. It’s also a popular ingredient in candies, drinks, jams, sorbets and so much more. I’ve seen it served with the rice milk concoction horchata, as well as served in salads or an ingredient in sauces and salsas. It really is tasty. Again, look at the introductory photo. The same cactus that gives you nopales (cactus paddles sliced and cooked) gives you tuna or prickly pears. The difference is nopales can be had year round because it is simply the paddles of the cactus – one of those hard to kill, invasive plants. Tuna/prickly pear is the fruit and is only available in the summer. So right now is the time to enjoy it.
Now, most people view prickly pear cactus as an intruder. It’s everywhere. Anyone who lives in the Southwestern or Western US have frequently seen prickly pear cactus growing wild. Most probably passed it by without thinking twice, many never knowing it’s an edible delicacy. You see, prickly pear cactus grow wild and represent about a dozen different species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae) in the North American deserts. In fact, it grows in the boulevards in El Paso as year round foliage and I cannot tell you how any farms and ranches I have visited where it is growing wild like a weed. Because of their hardiness and low maintenance, it’s not uncommon to see them in landscaping. In fact, we have a few of them in our yard. Sadly, they are the non-fruiting kind. Drat! 😦 They are, however, spineless with pretty flowers.
Most prickly pear cactus are full of sharp spines that can get into your skin and make you just downright uncomfortable. You definitely don’t want to fall into one of these or blindly walk into one. So why would you ever want to eat one??? It’s simple, they taste good, are easy to grow (you can’t kill them) and come in a variety of species. Indeed, in Mexico there are over 100 species of prickly pear cactus with edible fruits. Only a few, however, are palatable and even fewer taste really sweet. Also, fruit size, shape, and color vary from small and round like a walnut to three inches long and two inches wide like a rounded cylinder. Skin and flesh are also varied coming in a rainbow of colors i.e. white, green, yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. According to a friend of mine, white-skinned varieties are the most popular in Mexico. The sweetest varieties generally available in the US and the most common are the dark reddish-orange or purplish skinned prickly pears with the deep fuchsia flesh.* It was these beautiful dark reddish-purple skinned beauties we saw at the market the other day.
Baby Lady saw them and there was simply no stopping her. She was a woman on a mission. When I realized where she had gone, it reminded me I had been wanting to make a prickly pear sorbet. So, we bought 6.5 lbs. Of course, Baby Lady had to eat hers just the way they were leaving me 5 lbs. for the sorbet. When I told her how I intended to prepare them, it was like I stabbed her in the heart with a stake. 😮 I assured her she would love what I made. I’m sure glad she trusts me. 🙂 The net out is one of the best summer sorbets you will ever eat. Fresh, colorfully vibrant, sweet, tangy and it tastes like prickly pear fruit. Whether you have ever tasted prickly pear fruit or not, you really need to try this sorbet. It’s absolutely KILLER!!!!!! This is what we did.
- 5 lbs of red cactus fruits, roughly 18 fruits
- 1 cup sugar
- juice of 4 limes
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp Tequila
First things first, as always, make a simple syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar to a sauce pot.
Now add the water.
Place over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Set aside to cool.
Next, prepare the prickly pears. Baby Lady doesn’t believe in gloves. 😮 As a result, she is constantly putting tape or glue on her fingers to pull out the little spines. Even though they do not look like there are spines, there are! Wear plastic gloves. They do help.
To prepare the prickly pears, cut off the top and bottom.
Sometimes when you cut the bottom off you can pull the little tag that will tear the skin from bottom to top. Otherwise, make an incision about a half-inch deep from top to bottom.
Now, peel the skin off. If you bought ripe prickly pears, the thick outer skin should come off in one piece.
This is how the usable fruit looks when you’re done.
Kinda pretty, eh? It’s very tasty, too, but it is not very sweet by itself. Continue until you have peeled all of the fruit. You will have a large amount of peel per fruit which is why you need so many prickly pears.
Chop the prickly pears. Now, if you are unfamiliar with prickly pears, they have a lot of little hard seeds. My father-in-law, Eduardo, says eating prickly pear is like a machine gun going off in your head because there are so many small hard seeds. 😀 They are edible, digestible and are great roughage. I just don’t like roughage in my sorbet. 😮
To remove the seeds some people will tell you to simply place the fruit in a food processor, pulse and strain through a fine mesh sieve. I don’t want chopped up seeds in my sorbet and running the fruit through my Chinoise is more work than I care to do. I prefer chopping the prickly pears and putting them in my molina (hand food mill) with the finest mesh plate.
These are the thousands of seeds that are left.
Now, what is left is a wonderful puree.
Look at the beautiful, vibrant color. At this point, although pureed, the puree is still a little “meaty,” if you know what I mean. It has millions of tiny pulpy bits. Once frozen, it will give your sorbet a “grainy” texture. If you don’t mind the grainy texture, then skip this next step. I want a smooth, luxurious mouthfeel to this sorbet. So, I put the puree in my Vitamix and add the lime juice
and the simple syrup.
Blend on the highest speed for 30 seconds. For typical household blenders double the time.
Taste for sweetness/tanginess and adjust as necessary to your liking. Remember, sorbets are a balance of sweet and tangy. I initially started with 3 limes and upped it to 4 limes. Limes will vary according to size, ripeness, type, etc. and I didn’t measure the volume. 😮 So, taste it before you freeze it and it’s too late.
Pour directly into your ice cream maker.**
Freeze according to the ice cream maker directions.
When almost done, add the tequila. As I have stated in previous posts, the alcohol in the tequila keeps the sorbet from freezing brick hard. Trust me on this. It also provides a wonderful depth of flavor.
When done (about 50 minutes from start to finish), put the sorbet in a container and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours for the ice cream to set up. I know, I know. It’s soooo good you want to eat it now but wait. Take a small taste and wait. After it has set up, scoop some of the sorbet into a serving dish and enjoy!!! This is a killer sorbet!!!
NOTES: * I have seen and eaten a variety of prickly pears since I was a child. Most, however, have been the dark purplish red variety. I cannot recall ever eating a white skinned variety or one that tastes like a banana although I know they are available. If you are interested in a good overview of prickly pear fruit, I would recommend you read A Guide to Mexican Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit. While I haven’t tasted all of the tuna in his list, his comments are pretty spot on with those I have tasted.
** This made 5 cups of liquid. My Lello Musso Lussino ice cream machine makes roughly 6 cups but remember when frozen the liquid expands. 5 cups is a tad too much for a 6 qt machine. So, I made Baby Lady a Tunarita with 1/2 cup of the liquid. 🙂