Nothing infers tropical in the culinary world like pineapple. Where do you drink Piña Coladas but on a beach? And when you put pineapple on a pizza where else could it be from but Hawaii? (FYI the “Hawaiian pizza was actually invented by a Canadian in 1962, but southern Ontario doesn’t exactly scream tropical so…) Or how about that iconic 1980’s baking decadence, show stopper dessert that your mom would make for special occasions; the Pineapple Upside Down Cake? Cue the red dye no.84 maraschino cherries nestled in each of the seven, perfectly symmetrical, canned pineapple ring.
Pineapples – the fruit, the shape, the silly, messy hairdo – are all over the place these days. An icon of luxury, decadence, wealth and hospitality the popularity of the pineapple is nothing new. The “queen of fruit,” so named for the crown it wears, was an instant hit when Columbus brought it to Europe from South America in the 1500’s.
The problem was that no one in Europe could successfully grow pineapples for another century so or, despite many attempts by royal gardeners. Pineapples are tropical plants, and Europe just wasn’t hot enough. Shipping the beloved pineapple also wasn’t easy. Many a cargo hold of pineapples arrived rotten, and no doubt fermented as pineapple has a high sugar content and ferments VERY well on a boat, lemme tell you.
So, that meant if you could afford to have a pineapple on your table, in a centrepiece or a dessert, that you were definitely not one of us working class folks. And if you could afford to buy two and give one away as a “thank you for inviting me to your fancy dinner with pineapples on the table gift,” well then.
We happen to be lucky enough to spend a lot of time in places that can grow pineapples.
In fact, the Philippines is now the leading exporter of the fruit, according to the all knowing internet. In these places when pineapple are in season they are bit like zucchini – people practically give them away. This means that over the 12 years we’ve been sailing in the tropics I have bought a lot, eaten a lot and cooked a lot of pineapple. And here is the big secret; pineapple doesn’t have to be sickly sweet, paired with coconut or come from a can. In fact, pineapple is a lot more versatile than most people know.
Although I have been known to make a rum soaked Pineapple Upside Down Cake on the stove top in my cast iron pan for a potluck or two – who can help being nostalgic now and then – I much prefer to make savoury dishes with pineapple. Treating pineapple like a vegetable does have it’s limits but since it is so acidic it can work.
Last week pineapples started popping up in the market here in the Philippines, so I picked up 2 small ones for about $1.50 CAD. After admiring them on the counter for a couple days I got to work making one of my favourite pineapple creations of all times; Pickled Pineapple.
Yes, you read that right. Pickled Pineapple.
When I first stumbled upon this recipe somewhere online I simultaneously thought “What kinda crazy is this?!” and “Of course! What a perfect taste combination,” and “WTF don’t I think of these kinds of things?!”
Pickling pineapple riffs on the sweet and sour flavours that you would usually associate with a stir fry. The sweet pineapple against the sour vinegar brine accented with some salt, garlic and chilis is absolutely delicious. And because pineapple flesh is so robust it can take some time on brine and still have that satisfying crunch of a pickle. The process is dead easy. Peel, cut and pack the fruit into a large jar. Pour over the brine, put jar in fridge and forget about it for a couple weeks.
What is great about this recipe is that there is very little waste.
I don’t get too fussy when peeling pineapples, no going deep to make sure all the brown dimples are perfectly trimmed away. I also don’t cut away the core, which can sometimes be a little woody, but in a pickle, it is not that noticeable. Also, using smaller pineapples means the core isn’t woody anyway.
I quarter the pineapple, then turn each quarter into 2-3mm slices, then chop those in half so I end up with little triangles of pineapple that are easy to wedge into a jar.
Pop half in the jar, add a couple cloves of peeled and crushed garlic and some slices of chili to taste. Add the pineapple slices and more garlic and chilies.
In a small pan heat a brine of white vinegar, sugar and salt until everything is dissolved. Pour the brine over into the jar, making sure everything is covered.
Add lid and voila!
Pickled Pineapple, ready in about 2 weeks, delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to a stir fry or a pork chop. It even tastes great on a pizza. I’m calling it Pickled Hawaiian.
I also have an incredibly tasty and easy recipe for Curried Pineapple, anyone interested?
PICKLED PINEAPPLETIME: 15 mins Yield: 1 X 750ml jar
- 1 Small pineapple, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
- 4 Cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2-3 Chilies, slices (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
- 1 Cup white vinegar
- ½ Cup water
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
Pack half the peeled and sliced pineapple into a large, clean jar. Shake and poke to layer as neatly as possible. Add half the garlic and chili, then the other half of the pineapple slices and the rest of the garlic and chili. In a small pan heat the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve. Carefully pour the hot brine over the fruit in the jar, making sure everything is covered. Tap gently on the counter top to remove air bubbles. Screw on the lid and when cool place in fridge for at least 2 weeks.