In Southern Italy, the fruit of the Opuntia genus cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is used extensively. It is even fermented and distilled to produce a liquor. It does not have a high sugar content though – only 4.2%.
A liqueur made by infusing the fruit in alcohol is a specialty of southern Italy. In Sardinia where it is known as ‘figu morisca’ they also add lemon zest to the liqueur.
Here is a recipe for the ‘Liquore di fico d’india’ from an old Italian chef. The homeland of the cactus pear by the way, is the desert states of the U.S. and Mexico!
The liqueur this produces has a unique magenta tint that is most alluring.
- 10 whole cactus or prickly pears (caution, there are needles on these)
- 1 pint plus 1 ounce vodka 100 proof or higher
- 1 pint plus 1 ounce water
- 14 ounces sugar
- Peel cactus pears.
- Steep fruit in alcohol for 10 days. It acquires from the fruit a dark orange to red color.
- Make a syrup with the water and sugar, allowing to become thick. Cool and set aside.
- Remove fruit and add the sugar syrup.
- Strain and age for 20 days.