Prickly Pear Ice Cream

In launching this site, I hope to head into 2018 with a creative and adventurous spirit. In other words, do dumb things and have fun doing them.

So it seems fitting to kick it off with a crazy recipe involving an ingredient I’ve never used before: prickly pears.

Prickly pear cactus with fruit

I moved to Austin in October 2016 and live in a fertile neighborhood right on the Colorado River. We’re surrounded by huge pecan trees, lime, pomegranate, peppers and cacti. While walking my dog, Zeke, I picked up a prickly pear and learned the hard way how these fruits got their name.

Prickly pears are gorgeous, kiwi-like fruits with a few polka dots, that each contain tons of minuscule thorns. These spiky suckers are nearly impossible to see, and as a result, impossible to get out of your hands once they settle in. I returned later with garden gloves and carried the pears home in doggie bags (clean ones, obv).

The internet is full of ridiculous youtube videos on how to de-thorn prickly pears (like this “survival” video casually featuring a flamethrower. Ah, Texas), but I opted for a burn-free version. Simply rub the pears against a strainer and then cut off any remaining pricks with a pairing knife.

You can now open these bad boys. Slice the ends, cut a shallow slit from end to end, and from that slit, peel away the outside skin. Then, proceed to stain everything in your kitchen and on your body with neon purple/pink dye.

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Like alta or mehendi dye, but on accident.

Think of those movies where you know something stupid is coming but the main character is unrealistically naive. The good news: we’ve been introduced to a natural pink dye that isn’t beets (mhm bye beets).

For a moment, I feared making this recipe too complicated for a first post. But no one really makes ice cream at home unless they’re serious, so I have faith in you. And this truly is one of my favorite flavors I’ve ever made.

With that in mind, I wanted to accompany the subtle, melon-like flavor of prickly pears with an opposing flavor. On a different dog walk (I mean, what would I do without Zeke), I discovered a ton of wild chiltepins, or chile tepins, in the forest along the river. These teeny things are anywhere between 10-40 times hotter than a jalapeño. I do feel bad for inexperienced foragers who grab a handful thinking they’re wild berries.

I actually grow a close variety called Pequin peppers in my backyard garden, but they were bigger and riper in the wild, so I gathered a bunch to make hot sauce, and threw a couple in here for a subtle flavor–without adding much heat. Don’t worry–it really won’t burn!

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Wild chiltepins, or chile tepins, which look just like bear berries, growing along the Colorado River in Austin, TX.

Well, have fun. And thanks for joining me on my first post. Here’s to many more ice creams and wild foraging adventures with Zeke in 2018!

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Makes about 1 quart

For the flavor:

  • 6 prickly pears (or however much makes 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 finely chopped chiltepins, chile tepins, or pequin peppers
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For the ice cream base

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1/2 cup skim milk powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Carefully peel prickly pears, and discard the skins. Place the meat of the fruit into a blender or food processor and blend well. Strain the pulp into a small bowl. You should have about 1/2 cup, so make more or use less depending on your yield so far.
  2. Add the rest of the flavor ingredients to the pear juice and stir to combine.
  3. In a non-reactive pot, stir milk, cream, and milk powder until powder is dissolved. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  4. Pour the flavor mixture into the milk pot, stir it in smoothly, and then turn off the heat. Let steep for 1 hour.
  5. Strain the mixture into a bowl or tupperware with a lid and store in the fridge for about 4 hours.
  6. Finally, put it in your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions.
  7. Once it’s done churning, move the ice cream quickly to a freezer-safe storage container and place in the freezer. I recommend these containers, as they’re the perfect size and shape for your ice cream batches (and purchasing from that link will support my work).

You can eat it straight out of the ice cream maker, but it’ll be like soft serve. Although it requires patience, I prefer my ice cream after about 4-8 hours “aged” in the freezer. More on aging later. 🙂