Singing a Different Tuna

When I think of tuna, I picture the generic, disc-shaped cans I wrestle to the ground with a can opener before making a lunch I probably won’t enjoy (and maybe Jessica Simpson). So I was a little confused when I walked into our local ethnic market and saw a sign for “Red Tuna” in the produce section with a bunch of cactus-looking fruit in front of it. Needless to say, I grabbed 2 of them – carefully following the lead of a Chinese woman next to me as she picked hers. I looked it up when I got home and found how to eat them raw and a few other ways to prepare them. That’s how a stumbled upon something called Agua Fresca, a sweet Mexican drink flavored with fruit juice and today’s culinary adventure.

This recipe is pretty simple, but it takes some elbow grease. Am I 80 years old that I use a phrase like “elbow grease” in a non-ironic way?

You’ll need 5 red tunas 6 red tunas, 2 lemons, 2 bottles of club soda, and 3/4 C. of sugar. (I’m going to apologize right away for the cell phone photos. My camera batteries died just before I started this recipe.)

The beginnings of greatness.

Let’s take a closer look at the red tuna.

It’s part of the cactus family, so it has a thick skin and a fleshy inside. The flesh is filled with seeds, which I’m told you can eat, but they are extremely difficult to eat and not very tasty. The sweet, juicy flesh is where all the flavor is. In my opinion as a red tuna expert, it’s kind of like a prickly pear, a pomegranate, and a watermelon decided to combine forces for the greater good.

Start by slicing the ends off of the tuna, then making a slit through the peel. Like I said, that outer layer is thick, and if you cut through the flesh, it will be okay. You’re just going to mash it all up anyway. Pull off the peel so only the flesh remains. Hindsight is 20/20, so remember to use a plastic cutting board so you don’t stain your new, favorite Food Network cutting board. 

Next, grab a pitcher and a sieve. Put the sieve over the pitcher and place the tuna flesh (That’s not going to stop sounding weird, is it?) in the sieve.

Use a spatula to press the flesh through the sieve. The syrupy juice will collect in the pitcher while the seeds stay in the sieve.

This is where the aforementioned elbow grease comes in. It takes a while to press all the juice out. Be patient, switch hands frequently, and remember that it will all be worth it in a few minutes.

On the third or fourth tuna, I figured out that it helped to scraped the juice off the bottom of the sieve every few minutes so it wouldn’t get clogged up. Because nobody wants a tuna-clogged sieve, right?

Continue this process with the remaining tunas until you’ve pressed all the foamy, syrupy, fluorescent juice out of these fruits.

Next up is the lemon. Roll the lemon with the palm and heel of your hand. This bursts the little juice pods inside the lemon – I’m sorry, that’s as scientific as I can be on that one – so that you get more juice out when you squeeze them. If you leave the sieve over the pitcher, you don’t have to worry about the seeds, because the sieve will catch them. (Amazing how that works, huh?)

Now, add your club soda. Open the bottle, close the bottle when it begins to fizz all over you, clean up the club soda that is now all over your hands, shirt, and cutting board, and try again. The club soda is going to make the tuna juice (It is STILL weird saying that!) very fizzy. Try slowly stirring the mixture to break up some of the foam on top. Add the second bottle – this time with less of a mess – and stir again.

Look at all that foam from just one bottle of club soda…

… and after two bottles.

Now, add your sugar. If you like it to be less sweet, just start with 1/4 C. and gradually add more. I used 3/4 C. because we had this as a dessert drink.
And serve in a fancy glass…

My yellow tablecloth makes it look more red/orange than it is. It is hot pink.

Drink up!
I read somewhere that you can use honey or agave nectar if you have some kind of unwarranted hatred of sugar, and that you could use green tuna instead if you prefer a less-sweet, cucumber-melon type of taste. I personally despise cucumber melon. [When I was little, my sister got a cucumber melon gift set from someone for her birthday. She got sick of the smell and tried to sell it at our church rummage sale, and I thought it would be cool to be like my sister and use cucumber melon shower gel, lotion, glitter lotion, and body spray. It was not.]
This recipe for Agua Fresca was a major success, and there are a lot of variations out there using different fruits. I’d like to add pineapple next time and see if it comes out neon orange. You could also probably add vodka and give it some kind of crazy name. What are your suggestions? If we added vodka to the Red Tuna Agua Fresca, what would a good drink name be?
Til the next taste,