I have wanted to try cooking with cactus paddles for some time. A friend in town gave some to me last week. I did a little searching and found some recipes using the nopales. I have added them to my regular pinto recipe and found them quite good. The cactus has a taste like cucumber with a citrus undernote. They are soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. I have 2 paddles left that I am going to use in a recipe I found online. I’m going to make that over the weekend for our Labor Day meal. Not traditional holiday food but whatever. I do know that I have some cactus plants on my back forty acres. I will have to walk back there soon.
1 pound dry Pinto Beans, rinsed and picked over
Enough water to cover beans with 3 inches over them
2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning, I use my own blend of “Fuzz’s No Salt”
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
5 slices of thick cut Bacon or Smoked Hog Jowls, cut into cubes
1 or 2 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 slices of Onion , separate into rings
2 small tender Cactus Paddles, Nopales
Put everything except the Cactus Nopales into the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or overnight on low. Add water as needed. Cook until the beans are tender.
After the beans are cooked and tender, process the nopales. The nopales will have long spikes and short quills on the skin. Carefully holding the base of nopales, scrape a sharp knife over the skin to remove the short tufts of quills. I found it best to do this under running water in the sink. The quills will wash down the drain. Fortunately, I got go 2 quills in my palm that I removed with tweezers. After the quills are removed rinse the nopales under water. Cut a thin strip off the edges and discard. At the base cut off the thick woody part and discard. I didn’t even give this to my chickens. I didn’t want them accidently getting some quills. Cut the nopales into strips and then cube. Place the cubes into a saucepan with one tablespoon of salt. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain the liquid off. This will look like a little like runny jelly. Place the nopales cubes in the slow cooker with the beans. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Serve with cornbread if desired.