The prickly pear is the desert’s dessert—the sweet, pinkish or greenish, oval fruit of a flat paddled cactus that grows throughout the American West. To prepare whole prickly pears, cut the ends off with a paring knife, holding the pear at the end of a fork. It’s a good idea to wear gloves: the pear may still have some prickles. Cut the fruit into ½ inch dice, then puree in the food processor, running the machine in short bursts. Strain the resulting puree to remove the hard seeds. You’ll need about 1 pound of prickly pears to obtain 1 cup puree.
Step 1: Place the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, oil, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, smoked paprika, and pepper in a heavy saucepan. Gently simmer over medium heat until the celery and onion are tender and the mixture highly flavorful, 15 minutes.
Step 2: Strain the mixture into another saucepan. Stir in the prickly pear, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat until thick and richly flavored, 4 to 6 minutes. If a sweeter sauce is desired, whisk in the sugar. Correct the seasoning, adding vinegar if needed or optional salt to taste.
You can also buy prickly pear puree.