Bajtra, A Cypriot Prickly Pear Liqueur
One of my favorite things to do: explore an ingredient and make a new-to-me recipe. So, when I received a bunch of prickly pears, I did some research and stumbled across mention of bajtra, a prickly pear liqueur. There was a Maltese version that was simply prickly pear, a base alcohol, and sugar. But it was the version was Cyprus that captivated me. This Cypriot prickly pear liqueur includes vanilla cinnamon, and citrus.
LEARN THIS PROCESS! This recipe includes a process to create liqueur by steeping a fruit or nut in a base alcohol, then adding in a simple syrup. This is how I made limoncello (lemon liqueur), nocino (green walnut liqueur), and liquore all'alloro (bay leaf liqueur). I will link to all of those libations at the bottom of the post. BE CREATIVE...COOK FEARLESSLY!
Called 'prickly pear' or 'pear cactus', the fruits are always almost neon-colored. This batch was magenta-hued, but I have also gotten fruits that are brilliant orange. I love the color that these imparted to my bajtra.
8 prickly pears, peeled and cubed
1.5 Liter bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp
juice and pulp of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 4 cups granulated sugar, to taste
1 to 4 cups water
Also needed: sharp paring knife, half gallon jar with lid, strainer, small funnel, clean bottle
1. Add powdered sugar to the bottom of a large lidded jar.
2. Peel the prickly pears with a sharp paring knife to leave as much of the meat as possible. Cube the
fruit and place the cubes on top of the powdered sugar.
3. Add in the vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, orange juice and lemon juice.
4. Pour in the vodka. The fruit will float. Stir to dissolve as much of the powdered sugar as you can.
5. For the first few days, stir the mixture gently to dissolve the sugar. Let the vodka infuse, out of
direct sunlight, for at least 4 weeks but as much as 6 months. The longer you infuse, the stronger the
flavor. I left this mixture for about 6 weeks.
6. When you are done infusing, strain out the fruit, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans. Create a
simple syrup with a ratio of 1:1 (sugar to water). I usually do 4 cups, then use only what I need. To
make the simple syrup, place sugar in a saucepan and pour in the water. Bring the mixture to a
simmer. Swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar completely.
7. Slowly add the simple syrup to the infused vodka, tasting as you go. The less you add, the thinner
and more alcoholic it will taste; the more you add, the more syrupy and sweet it will taste.
When you are satisfied with your creation, use a funnel to pour the bajtra into clean bottles or jars. I created this for my gift offering at an annual 'favorite things' event. I can't wait to share this pink libation with some of the most inspiring women I know. Serve in very small glasses as this is a potent sip.
Other Homemade Liqueurs
Using this same process of infusing flavor into vodka and sweetening it with a simple syrup, Limoncello, Liquore all'Alloro, and Nocino are three infused liqueurs that I have made. I have also tried a rhubarb liqueur which my husband declared a waste of good rhubarb; he would much prefer a rhubarb pie!
I love the color of the bajtra. I can't wait to get my hands on more prickly pears so I can make another batch. Soon!