Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Xoconostle Jam

I base seasonality by what's available at my favorite Mexican-centric grocery store around the corner. Apples may be all the rage in New York right now, but I'm pretty pumped about the sour tunas from central Mexico. I'm going to be living in Boston by the next tuna season, so I'm going to can a bunch of my favorite tuna jam to take with me. Also known as prickly pears, tunas are the fruit of the nopale catus. The sweet ones that grown in Texas are a deep magenta (like red beet juice) and lovely, but I'm really in love with the sour ones, known as tuna agria in Spanish or Xoconostle for former Aztec region in Mexico where they grow. They're pale yellow and pink and not overwhemingly sour, just perfectly tart.

Tunas are high in soluble fiber and may help stablize blood sugar. Their pectin is being studied for its ability to lower bad choloestorol while leaving the good alone... I'm not saying this jam will cure what ails you, but it's great on toast or pancakes, so why not give it a shot?

Recipe: Xoconostle [Sour Tuna] Jam
Makes 4 half-pint jars
You can use other tunas (prickly pears) in this recipe. The sweet magenta ones have a beautiful color and much smaller/softer seeds, so you don't even need to scoop them out. All are rolled in big tumblers of sand after they're picked, but a few tiny spines may remain, which is why I always peel and rinse.

1.25 lbs tunas (prickly pears)
1 Meyer lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar

Peel and halve tunas, scooping out seeds. Roughly chop or pulse briefly in a food processor [don't puree as this will break down the pectin]. Combine tunas, lemon, water, and salt in a large saucepan over high heat until water begins to boil. [The saucepan may look too big, but we'll get to that.] Lower heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until water is mostly evaporated and tunas are soft.
Mash with a potato masher or ricer until the pulp is a fairly uniform consistency with only small chunks. Add 2 cups of sugar and raise heat to medium-high. Once sugar reaches a full rolling boil [it may look like it's trying to escape the pan], stir frequently for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom. Turn off heat.
Spoon a small amount onto a plate and stick in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes to cool. Check the consistency. It won't be perfectly smooth, but if the syrupy component is too loose for your tastes, continue boiling a few more minutes. If it's too thick, stir in a tablespoon of water [or tequila!].

Ladle into glass jars and refrigerate once cool.
Ladle into canning jars, being careful to wipe any jam from the rims before sealing. Bring water to boil in a 3/4 full large stockpot. Carefully lower the jars into the water with tongs, cover the pot, and boil for 7 minutes. Pull out and allow to cool. Lids will make popping sounds as they depress and seal. Store in a cupboard.


  1. do you have a receipe for xoconostle dehydrated? to eat as a snack? i have bought packaged in mx before but want to make my own - i am going to try in my dehydrator

  2. I haven't tried it, but I imagine it would be great. I'd recommend scooping out the seed pulp [the seeds are hard and the pulp doesn't have much flavor] and maybe try doing halves in the dehydrator? I'm very curious; let me know how it turns out!