By Mimi Prunella Hernandez
It’s a wondrous coincidence to me how nature aligns the ripening of prickly pear cactus fruits and the flourishing of lemon verbena shrubs during September and October, the months celebrating Hispanic & Latin American Heritage. I’m honored to present my beloved recipe for Prickly Pear and Lemon Verbena Infused Vinegar. This stunning fuchsia-tinted concoction showcases the exotic flavor of fresh prickly pears and the invigorating aroma of lemon verbena, both indigenous herbs of Latin America. Bear in mind that this recipe follows a traditional approach, so precise measurements aren’t necessary.
- Spine-free cactus fruits (Prickly Pears)
- Fresh lemon verbena leaves (a couple of handfuls, chopped)
- Your favorite vinegar (I like plain vinegar so the brilliant colors come through)
- Many grocers already provide pre-smoothed fruits, which can be convenient. However, if you prefer to forage your own, I highly recommend taking necessary precautions. Before handling them, it’s advisable to wear long gloves and use long tongs to pluck the fruits from the cactus. To prepare the fruits, start by scrubbing them one at a time in a bucket of sand, making sure to wear thick rubber gloves. This will help remove any remaining prickles.
- Next, thoroughly rinse the fruits to ensure they are entirely clean. For an extra level of assurance, give them another quick rinse. These steps will help ensure your prickly pear fruits are ready to be enjoyed.
- Slice fruits in half and scoop out the pulp, including the seeds, and place them in a jar, filling it halfway.
- Add a couple of handfuls of chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves to the jar.
- Pour your favorite vinegar over the mixture, ensuring that it covers the ingredients completely and fills the jar.
- Let the mixture steep for 2 weeks on the shelf, allowing the flavors to infuse.
- After 2 weeks, strain the vinegar through a cheesecloth to remove any solids (then bury the seedy pulp in soil for cactus babies!).
- Squeeze the cheesecloth to extract all the flavorful liquid since the resulting vinegar may be quite viscous.Once strained, you’ll be left with a soft and velvety,brilliant, fuchsia-colored vinegar bursting with tropical flavors, bright herbs, and citrusy notes!
- Enjoy the delightful tropical flavors and the array of uses for this infused vinegar recipe.
You can use this infused vinegar for salad dressings, marinades, or to add a unique twist to your favorite jicama slaw. You can even drink it by the spoonful as a cactus remedy to help manage blood sugar, uplift your mood, and enjoy the natural and potent antioxidants found in the vibrant colors and aromatics.