1. Preparing the prickly pears: Cut a ½-inch slice off both ends of the prickly pears, then make a ½-inch-deep incision down one side, end to end. Carefully (remember, there are little stickers) peel off the rind, starting from your incision: The rind is thick and, if ripe, will easily peel away from the central core of fruit. Roughly chop the peeled prickly pears.
2. The ice base: Place the fruit in a blender or food processor, add 1 cup water, the sugar and lime juice, and blend for several minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve; taste for sweetness and tartness, adding more sugar or lime juice as necessary. If time permits, chill thoroughly.
3. Freezing the ice: Pour the mixture into the canister of your ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice comes from the machine, it may be rather soft; for a firmer texture, let it “ripen” in your freezer for a couple of hours before serving.
Traditional and Contemporary Variations
Mango, peach, Nectarine or Cantaloupe Ice: Peel, pit and/or seed about 2 pounds (slightly more for cantaloupe) fruit, to yield 2 cups of fruit pulp. Puree with 1½ cups water, ¾ to 1 cup sugar, and lime juice to taste. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. A tablespoon or so of dark rum is a delicious addition.
Strawberry, Blackberry, Boysenberry or Kiwi Ice: Puree 2½ cups of packed-down fruit (hulled and halved strawberries, peeled and diced kiwi) with 1 cup water, ¾ to 1 cup sugar and about 2½ tablespoons fresh lime juice. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. A tablespoon or so of Triple Sec or Cointreau are good additions.