Off the Dole

If you think the best pineapples in the world come from Hawaii, you're wrong; very, very wrong.

Even when I lived there I couldn't get pineapples like those in Kerala as Appu, my trusty photographer and assistant demonstrates:

At 20 Rs (43¢) apiece, I could live off them.

So how to choose and prepare a pineapple?
First off, find one that's uniformly yellow or golden and sniff the stem. You want them golden, but not to the point of fermentation, so if you catch a whiff of alcohol or ketone, it's over-ripe.
Second, pick one as nearly cylindrical as possible because this makes the dissection easier and with less waste.
Third, pick one whose surface is as uniform as possible. If the pits for the little flowers(?) are deep, much will be wasted in the peeling process.

That said, how do you cut it up? There are probably many methods, but through trial and error I've found the one below to work the best.

Start with a large, heavy chef's knife or a cleaver if you have one. Sharper is better, of course. Mind that if you're using carbon steel, pineapple is acidic and will discolor the blades in no time flat, so be sure to wash up immediately post operation.

Begin by twisting off the crown and cutting the tops and bottoms off so the remainder resembles a cylinder. You needn't chop off too much at this point because if they are rounded we can still salvage plenty of good fruit with some extra cutting.

Next, lay the pineapple on its side and slice off a strip of rind from the right hand edge about ¼" deep from the outside. At this point, check the cut pineapple edge to see if you've managed to cut out most (not all -- that'd be too wasteful) of the eyes. If too many remain, the subsequent cuts will need be deeper; on the other hand, if none remain you've probably cut too deeply and will waste a good deal of the pineapple.

Give the pineapple a turn of about 30° (12 or 15 cuts will be needed in total) and make another slice at a tangent to the perimeter beginning somewhere in the already cut portion. The idea at this point it to carve a polygon out of the circular circumference. We leave the curved tops and bottoms for a later step.

Now to those pesky tops and bottoms. Set the pineapple on its flat base and again repeat the tangential cutting routine 'round both the top and bottom angling your knife or cleaver as seen below. If the base or top was exceedingly curved, you can repeat the cuts at the angle formed by the side and bottom cuts.

Fan as I am of kitchen gadgets, at this point I think it's much easier to remove the core with a knife rather than one of those clever cutters, but it takes a sharp knife, a steady hand and a good eye.

Eyeball the skinned fruit and determine the centerline through the core. Your first cut is most crucial, so take your time. Measure twice, cut once! With the fruit still vertical, bisect down the centerline. If you lay the thing down on its side it'll roll all over, so be sure to do this with the pineapple in a vertical position.

At this point you can either repeat the process by halving the halves again along the vertical axis, but I find cutting the halves in thirds (6 pieces total) makes smaller and nicer chunks. Of course, you could always half the halved halves (8 total), but that's too much work unless the pineapple's really big or you want tiny little chunks.

Then just lay the resulting spears flat on the cutting board and cut the core out with a single slice at the edge of the woody portion. You needn't remove every bit of the core because that part closest to the flesh isn't so woody and fibrous. Then just line the slices up and cut them at 1 or 2 inch intervals and you're done! Be sure to wash the knife and cutting board asap because bees and flies just love that sweet, sticky juice. (Okay, so you may not have that problem in America!)

Bon apetit!

Next time we'll learn how to remove the husk from a coconut using just a machete...


Anonymous said...

Actually, I've gotten used to leaving the core. As long as the fruit is sliced thinly, it is perfectly fine to eat, and the flavour is much the same as the rest of the fruit.

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