All About the Sweet Pineapple
Here's how to buy 'em, store 'em, carve 'em and
prepare the fruit
The pineapple was once so difficult to cultivate that gentry in 18th-century
England were held in high esteem if they could grow the fickle fruit in their
Today, modern techniques have made the pineapple abundant; it's also more
fragrant and much less perishable. The fruit is exceptionally sweet -- too sweet
for some -- and has a bright, even lurid, yellow color.
The pineapple is an aggregate fruit, made up of individual fruits clustered
How to select:
Some say a pineapple is ripe if a spiky leaf comes loose when pulled from the
top. Others recommend that if you are looking for sweetest fruit, the color
beneath the diamond pattern should be bright yellow without a trace of green.
More certain indicators? Leaves should be bright green and sprightly, not
pallid, brown or limp, and the fruit should feel heavy for its size, yield
slightly to pressure but be devoid of soft or brown spots. Look for a faintly
fruity aroma that exudes from the stem, but beware a sweetish, fermented odor.
Available year-round, the pineapple's peak season is March through July.
How to store:
Keep unripe pineapples at room temperature. Although pineapples do not ripen
once removed from the stem, the acidity diminishes with time, thus creating an
illusion of increased sweetness.
Ripe pineapples should be refrigerated for as short a time as possible,
preferably fewer than three days. After that, the texture tends to turn mushy.
How to carve:
There are many methods, depending on the desired result. The most common is to
start by slicing the leafy plume and the stem ends from the fruit.
To remove the tough exterior, steady the pineapple upright on a cutting board,
then slice downward just below the surface of the rind, following the curve of
the fruit. (Do not try to remove the "eyes" yet.) Rotate and repeat.
Finally, remove the eyes with a short knife by making V-shaped cuts around each.
To slice or chop, place the fruit on its side. To slice, cut it crosswise into
1/2- to 3/4-inch thick slices, then cut each slice in half. To chop, cut the
fruit lengthwise into six or eight wedges, then cut each wedge crosswise into
Trim and discard the woody core from each piece.
How to prepare:
Reserve the pineapple juices by carving the fruit on a rimmed cutting board. Not
only do the juices make a sweet-tart addition to a cocktail, but they also can
keep other produce (apples, pears, avocados) from turning brown.
The juices also contain an enzyme that breaks down protein, making them a
valuable tenderizing agent in marinades. The same enzymes aid digestion. (The
juice may also make the skin on the fingers and around the lips tingle; this is
Individual pineapples vary in sweetness. The further the slice is from the plume
(and the closer to the stem), the sweeter the fruit tends to be. Reserve less
ripe portions as a garnish, or pair with other ripe tropical fruits, such as
papaya and mango chunks, tossed with a syrup of lemon juice, sugar and mint or
basil or topped with a dollop of plain yogurt and drizzled with honey. Fruit
that is slightly overripe or mushy may be used to flavor smoothies or marinades.
Diced pineapple also finds its way into fruit salsas for fish, poultry or pork.
Some chefs prefer a sprinkle of salt to draw out the acidity.
Served warm, the pineapple is sublime. Traditionalists should look beyond the
classic pineapple upside-down cake and substitute thin slices in a tarte tatin.
A quick turn under the broiler, in a saute pan or on the grill works wonders.
During cooler weather, caramelize pineapple under the broiler by sprinkling
slices with a sweetener (granulated or brown sugar, a sugar syrup or even honey)
and heating until brown and bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Or simmer it in butter,
brown sugar, a pinch of spice and a splash of liqueur and use as a topping for
ice cream or rice pudding.
To grill, heat wedges on a lightly oiled rack until barely charred, about 2
minutes per side.
Or, serve chunks nestled in a pineapple shell that has been split in half
lengthwise, green plumes still attached, and carved from within, leaving a layer
of pineapple intact against the rind.
Source: Renee Schettler
Razzle Dazzle Recipes
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