Let’s start at the top. When choosing a fresh pineapple, no amount of leaf-tugging or counter-sitting will make it riper or sweeter.
That’s because this golden fruit, symbol of hospitality, tropical beaches and tiki parties, is harvested ready to eat.
“Pulling a leaf is not the best way to determine if a pineapple is ripe, simply because there are many reasons why a leaf will fall off,” says Allan Acosta, general manager of tropicals for Minnesota-based Robinson Fresh.
“The best option is a visual inspection.”
Fruit that’s all green or all brown may be under or over-ripe, says Acosta, while the perfect piña has a light yellow bottom.
“The further the yellow colour is up the fruit, the sweeter the pineapple is.”
Acosta says Costa Rica supplies about 80 percent of the world’s pineapple market, including the GTA. The MD2, sweeter and a deeper yellow than older varieties, is shipped by boat to Philadelphia and trucked to TO.
While the demand for pineapples continues to grow, he says the way we buy and eat this naturally-sweet fruit has changed dramatically. In fact fresh-cut options such as chunks now represent more than 50% of supermarket pineapple sales.
It seems DIY pineapple is becoming a lost art. Too bad, as I find it relaxing to cut it up when I bring it home from the store, though one is left with a pile of trimmings!
The reward, a heaping container of sweet golden chunks ready to throw on yogurt and oatmeal, thread on skewers with pork kabobs or eat as a snack.
Peter Stewart, Dole Canada’s senior director of business development and sales strategy, says canned pineapple remains a good seller, but Dole’s resealable foil pouches of refrigerated pineapple chunks have been a game-changer in terms of popularity.
He says Dole’s next innovation is a plastic pouch of pineapple chunks in juice with a see-through window, a high-tech feat since the golden fruit usually fades when exposed to light.
Now that buying pineapple is easier than ever, it’s time to expand its use beyond fruit salad, Easter ham and Hawaiian pizza. Think cocktails, cookies and grilled pineapple salsa. After grilling the rings for today’s recipe I’m hooked on their intense caramelized flavour. Next stop, ice cream!
Buy & store
- The main season for fresh pineapple is September to June.
- High season is March to May and November to December.
- Refrigerate pineapple two to four days. Once cut, refrigerate in a tightly-sealed container for several days.
- Twist off crown. Cut pineapple in half lengthwise, then into quarters.
- Trim off ends and slice off core across the centre of each quarter.
- With a thin paring knife, remove shell from fruit. Cut into bite-size pieces. For a party, serve quarters on skin and add toothpicks.
- For pineapple boats, cut fruit and crown in half lengthwise and cut fruit out of the boats. Fill halves with fruit salad or stir-fried chicken.
- Salsa: Combine sweet, smoky grilled then chopped pineapple with peppers, onions and chile. Serve with meat, fish tacos, even hot dogs.
- Lemonade: Adding pineapple juice to fresh lemonade cuts the sugar needed. Add a splash of rum or tequila.
- Bake it: Pineapple adds a fruity sweetness and moisture to cakes and cookies.
- Ice pops: Bring 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar and 1 cup (250 mL) water to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Chill. Purée in blender with 2 cups (500 mL) minced fresh pineapple. Strain into bowl, discarding solids. Stir in another 2 cups (500 mL) minced pineapple and pour into eight popsicle molds. Freeze at least three hours.
Grilled Pineapple & Pesto Turkey Burgers
If you’re not keen to carve your own, a whole cored pineapple makes perfect rings. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, use a stove-top grill pan or broiler. Use leftover spinach in a salad or sauté with onion and garlic. Adapted from Dole Canada.
1/2 bunch or 1/2 a 227g bag fresh spinach, washed and dried
450 g lean ground turkey
4 tbsp (60 mL) prepared pesto sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 rings (½-inch/.25 cm) fresh or canned pineapple
4 burger buns, sliced
4 lettuce leaves
4 slices Havarti or cheese of your choice
Remove stems and finely chop spinach – a food processor works well.
In large bowl combine turkey, spinach, 2 tbsp (30 mL) pesto and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Form mixture into four patties. Refrigerate, removing 30 minutes before cooking.
Heat grill to high. Brush pineapple slices with olive oil. Place on grill and cook 6 minutes, turning at half-time, until tender.
Reduce heat to medium and place burgers on greased grill. Since patties are fragile, I cooked them on my cool Cookina barbecue sheet. Cover grill and cook about 8 minutes. Turn and cook another 6 minutes or until thermometer inserted sideways into centre of burger reads 165F (74C).
Place cheese on patties for last 2 minutes and toast buns.
To assemble, stack lettuce, burger, some of remaining pesto and grilled pineapple slice on each bun bottom. Add top and serve.
Makes 4 burgers.
Published in the Toronto Star June 13, 2018