Prickly pears actually grow pretty abundantly around Southern California. But since we don’t exactly want to get caught picking some stranger’s prickly pears behind their gate, we get ours for super cheap at the local Asian market – A Grocery Warehouse in Echo Park.
If you’re brave enough to pick your own, make sure to use tongs and a bucket. The spines can be pretty easily removed by burning them off with a torch or your gas stove.
Whether store-bought or hand-picked, always peel the fruit before juicing by slicing off each end, then slice a horizontal strip along the pear, and just peel it back. The insides are a little pulpy and messy, and will stain your white clothes if you’re wearing them.
The two juicing methods we recommend include using a juicer or hand straining. The fruit does have these rough seeds inside, so juicing or straining is best (no blending). We’ve got a Breville Juice Fountain Compact, and it can handle the pulp and seeds pretty easily (although it’s a little messy). Just pop in the peeled fruit, and voila!
The hand straining is a little more time consuming, but a lot cheaper than the juicer. A small, fine mesh strainer (one that fits over a cup), add 1/2 or one of the prickly pear guts and with a muddler start pressing the juice through.
The prickly pear is a perfect addition to a margarita because it adds a nice almost tropical flavor without the sweetness of other fruits. Add just a teaspoon to a tablespoon per margarita, and you’ll taste the difference. Because it’s such a pain to juice, I usually do a lot at a time and then freeze the rest – the four smaller prickly pears pictured above yielded about 15 ounces of juice.
It’s even possible that some species of prickly pears are actually great for reducing hangovers – we think it does actually work!