As summer heats up a tropical vibe seeps into the kitchen, and we Sur La Table-ites are finding ourselves reaching for a fruit to match: fresh pineapple! With sharp-edged leaves and a prickly, pinecone-like exterior (hence the name), pineapple can be intimidating in its natural, un-canned state. Don’t let that appearance deceive you, though; fresh pineapple is surprisingly easy to work with—especially with handy tools like our Pineapple Corer and Slicer.
(Editor’s Note: my family received a fresh pineapple as a gift in the early 80’s. We probably stared at it for a day, unsure of how to proceed, but when my dad finally grabbed a knife and went for it, we were shocked at the difference in flavor. Unforgettable!)
Pineapple works great in meat dishes, cakes, smoothies, cocktails, salads or on it’s own. And due to its high-sugar content, pineapple caramelizes when cooked—so toss some on the grill to make your summer barbecue even sweeter.
Tips and Tricks
- Unsure if a pineapple is ripe? Check the base for a yellowish-gold coloration and a strong, sweet scent. A green base indicates an unripe fruit while a reddish base means it’s past its prime.
- Once picked, a pineapple ceases to ripen on its own, but it can be nudged along by standing it upside down.
- A pineapple should be eaten within 2 days of ripening or, if refrigerated, within seven days. Wrap it first to keep it from absorbing odors from other items.
- Save that shell! If you’re careful with your cutting, you can use the empty shell as a decorative dish (or perhaps as a container for your favorite tiki drink).
- If you’re cutting your pineapple with a knife, don’t cut the top off until you’re almost finished—the leaves make a convenient handle.
- It can take close to 3 years for a pineapple to fully mature.
- Pineapple juice contain large amounts of bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme (that means it breaks down proteins), so it’s great for tenderizing meats. Bonus: pineapple tastes delicious on pork.
- South American mariners used to carry pineapples with them on long boat trips to prevent scurvy and to help keep the boats clean (pineapple + sand = effective boat cleaning agent).
- While often associated with Hawaii, pineapples are not native to the archipelago. Though the exact history is unknown, it’s believed that pineapples were brought to Hawaii by Spaniards sometime in the 16th century.
- Grow your own pineapple plant! Save the crown with a little bit of the meat attached, then plant it in a suitable piece of land, water it regularly and watch it grow. You can soak the crown in water for a few days to give the roots a head start, but it’s not usually necessary. Give your new pineapple plant time and it will eventually produce fruit (just don’t count on putting it in a fruit salad any time soon—it takes at least three years to fully mature).
- Pineapple and Shrimp Red Curry (Kaeng Khua Saparot, pictured above)
- Halibut Steamed in Banana Leaves with Orange-Pineapple Relish
- Steam-Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Amaretti Crumble
- Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins
- Piña Colada