Ingredient In Depth: Pineapple

If ever there was an intimidating fruit, it is the pineapple.  I think a lot of people are lost when it comes to this semi-exotic treat.  I keep hearing how they’re hard to pick, difficult to choose and baffling to use as anything other than an offensive weapon.  Fear not gentle traveler, there are answers to be found and paths we can take to greater pineapple understanding.  Anything here can be done with canned pineapple, but fresh is far better.

TheDSCF2244 first step is choosing a ripe pineapple, which is easier than you might think.  Some people advocate squeezing fruit to determine ripeness, but for obvious reasons that doesn’t exactly work with the pineapple.  I’ve hears people say that you can tell a ripe pineapple by if the leaves can be pulled off easily.  Don’t do this, though.  It isn’t reliable and is kinda disrespectful towards your fruit vendors.  Instead the best way to determine if any fruit is ripe is to give it a good sniff.  Ripe pineapple will smell strong and delicious.  Also, ripe fruit tends to feel heavy for its size.  The great thing is that you can find decent pineapple almost all year round, though spring to early summer seems to be the best time.

So now that we have the perfect pineapple, it’s time to process it.  Again, though this can be a scary thought, it’s really not all that hard.  Cut the top and the bottom off the pineapple and stand upright.  Using a chef knife slice the skin off.  Don’t worry if there’s some bits left on the pineapple, those can be cleaned off later.DSCF2253

Since we now have our cleaned pineapple it’s time to start considering how we want to use it.  First off, I’m going to caramelize some of it.  Slice six thin slices from one end and cut out the center with a small circular cutter, apple corer or knife.  Lay the slices out on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with canola oil and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar.  Next, turn on the broiler in your oven and broil until the slices begin to brown.  This usually takes about fifteen minutes, but check frequently because they begin to burn very suddenly.DSCF2279

These are a great addition (along with bacon, mushrooms and onions) to burgers.  And of COURSE you’re using homemade buns, right?DSCF2282

So we still have lots of delicious pineapple to play with.  How about some ice cream?  First we have to core the rest of the pineapple.  Cut the pineapple into quarters, lay each on their side and cut at an angle to remove the core.  You could discard the cores, but I like to freeze them to use as “ice cubes” for a glass of water.  Anyway, this leaves us with about 500 grams of pineapple left, depending on the size of the pineapple.  We’ll take 400g of that and puree it.  Here’s everything else we need:

Coconut Pineapple Ice Cream

800g Coconut Milk
3 Egg Yolks
150g Sugar
400g Pureed Pineapple

Combine the coconut milk, yolks and sugar.  Whisk together and cook on low-medium heat until steam just begins to form.  Remove from heat, mix in the puree and refrigerate overnight before butting through your ice cream maker.  Or freeze it solid and run it through you food processor.

For the last little bit of pineapple, let’s candy it.  Thinly slice the last bit and put the wedges in a pot with 250g each of water and sugar.  Boil until the slices begin to turn translucent (about 10 minutes or so) then bake at 200° to dry out.  This will take about an hour or so and because the temperature is so low that you’re unlikely to burn them if you forget to check them.  The longer you cook them, the drier and more chewy they will become.  The candied pieces of pineapple can be used for garnishes and snacking.  I plan to put in on top of a pineapple cake as garnish, but since the candied pineapple keeps, we’ll save that for another day.DSCF2309

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