Prickly Apple is a hard cider recipe using the tart desert fruit of the prickly pear plant commonly found in the Sonora desert near my house. A pink so intense you think it’s fake, Prickly Apple is a hard cider recipe that blends a tart dessert apple base with prickly pear juice. The Mangrove Wit yeast has a low attenuation but takes some time to clarify. You might even need to filter it. However, the low attenuation will give you a little residual sweetness that balances the tart and acidic flavors of this prickly pear hard cider.
This hard cider recipe has a few unique steps and I want to spend a little time covering those in more detail. The first is juicing the prickly pears. Why do I say to use a centrifuge juicer or blender? The seeds of the prickly pear are rather large and very hard. If you have a masticating juicer you won’t be able to process them and if you try, get ready to but a new juicer. A centrifuge type juicer works really well as it extracts the juice from the seeds and pulp without needing to do anything but wash the fruit and drop them into the juicer. Strain the juice into a freezable bottle with some pectic enzyme. Let it sit for an hour before freezing. This is the easiest method.
If you don’t have a centrifuge type juice, you can also blend the prickly pears whole and strain this blended pulp into the freezable container. You might need to press it more through the strainer with a spatula to separate the juice and pulp. This takes a little more time and usually has more pulp. It also doesn’t extract as much juice so you might need more fruit to get the 1/2 gallon of juice you desire. The pectic enzyme will help separate the pulp and juice.
The next unique step is freeze concentrating the prickly pear juice. I have found the specific gravity of the prickly pear juice to be around 1.025. If you freeze the juice and reduce the volume by half though freeze concentrating the specific gravity of the prickly pear juice should double to around 1.050. This allows you to generate similar ABV % to the apple juice. It also concentrates the other elements of the prickly pear juice. This helps you get and hopefully create a pretty pink hard cider.
That’s why I also do the last unique element for this hard cider recipe: secondary fermentation. When I ferment the prickly pear juice with the apple juice, the pink color tends to disappear. Therefore, I instead ferment the concentrated prickly pear juice as a secondary fermentation process. This seems to retain more of the pink color. This process is simple. You rack the hard cider from the primary fermenter into a keg or carboy with the concentrated prickly pear juice. The yeast still in the hard cider from the primary fermentation will start to ferment the sugar in the prickly pear juice, usually at a slower rate.
Overall, the color of this cider can be challenging. See Hard Cider Tip #2 for more details on color retention. The goal is a fuchsia pink. It may be a little cloudy from the Wit yeast but this color will help mask the cloudiness if you don’t want to filter it. I like this cider to have medium to high carbonation with an ABV around 6-7%. This is a great hard cider to pair with Mexican food but don’t be afraid to try it with burgers or sausage. The acid will work well with any meat or dish that is high in fats.
Don’t be overly concerned if you do lose the pink color, you won’t lose the prickly pear flavor. Let me know how your batch turned out and what food you enjoyed with it. If you have questions, leave a comment or check out my hard cider tips section or book for more details.