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Nothing tasted quite like those perfectly circular, hole in the middle, canned pineapple rings of childhood. No fresh fruit could match its sugar-soaked toothsome, slurpy-wet virtues. Compared with those juicy, honey yellow rounds, the first taste of fresh pineapple was a real disappointment. It seemed too dry, too formal, nowhere near as sweet as the syrup drenched "authentics" from the can. With practice, and the help of better informed taste buds, the natural pineapple eventually seemed to improve in flavor and texture. Cut in chunks and eaten directly from the end of a wooden skewer, the fruit became exotic, worldly, pleasantly mysterious. It finally seemed plausible that George Washington might well have said, in comparing several tropical fruits he tasted on a trip to Barbados, "None pleases my taste as do's the pine."
The "pine" as he called it got its name from its resemblance to the pine cone. The first Spaniards who saw it called it Pina de Indias, but it also became known as the king of fruits. This was probably more a reference to the crown on its head, however than to any other horticultural hierarchy. In its native habitat, the pineapple was a symbol of hospitality among the Carib Indians, who hung it as welcome sign on their doorways. This custom was translated architecturally onto the gateposts and entrance ways of Europe and New England as the popularity of the New World fruit spread. Although the pineapple is virtually synonymous with Hawaii, it was not introduced there until the late 1700s. The three most common types sold in this country are the Smooth Cayenne, the Sugar Loaf, and the Red Spanish.
A Hawaiian appetizer of bacon wrapped pineapple has probably passed its heyday, but there are countless other possibilities, for the raw and the cooked, from cool salads to hot sauces, from sherberts to shish kebabs. Because pineapple contains a natural enzyme, protease, which digest gelatin, it can be used in gelatin-containing desserts only if boiled first. Last but not least, it can be used in that traditional favorite, pineapple upside-down-cake, as long as one heeds the words of Jane Grigson: you must "resist the temptation to stick glace cherries into the holes of the pineapple slices."
Consumer and Cooking Guide
Only one variety of pineapple is commonly found in markets and should have a label that assures the consumer it was jet-shipped to guarantee the freshness of the fruit. The color of the skin may vary from light brown to green. An easily released leaf does not guarantee ripeness or sweetness. Select large, chubby pineapples with bright green leaves.
Store at room temperature for up to 4 days. Cut pineapple may be stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Cinnamon, brown sugar, mint cloves, allspice
1 medium pineapple = 3 pounds
3 pounds = 3 cup cubed fruit
Good source of vitamin C
52 calories per cup
Pineapple Relish with Mustard Seed
makes 2 cups
2 cups cubed pineapple
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 green onions
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined
6 fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
In a food processor combine all the ingredients except mustard seeds until coarsley chopped. Stir in the mustard seeds. Let stand, covered, for about 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Use with grilled poultry or fish.
Grilled Lamb Cubes with Pineapple
makes 30 appetizers or serves 4 as a main course
1 pound boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes, juice reserved
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the lamb in a a shallow non-reactive bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the lamb, stirring to coat well. Let the lamb marinate at room temperature for 2 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. Preheat the broiler or grill until very hot. Thread the lamb and pineapple cubes on 6 inch skewers and brush with the marinade remaining in the bowl. Place the skewers on the grill or 6 inches from the broiler source and cook 8 minutes, turning every so often. Serve hot or warm.
Pineapple and Strawberries in Pineapple Sauce
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
Mint sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon white rum
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the pineapple and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until pineapple breaks down. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Let cool and chill in refrigerator. Serve over pineapple cubes and strawberries. Garnish with mint.