Tepache helps pineapple rind live to see another day
A great many things can be made from fat, ripe pineapple. I would like to suggest that instead of an upside down cake or a fruit salad you explore the world of fermenting and make a batch of tepache. Not only is tepache tangy and refreshing, a batch or two can be made from the entire pineapple (minus the stem)—and you know we’re here for food waste cooking. Tepache originated in, and is typically sold by street vendors in Mexico. Like most dishes with a long history, there isn’t one specific way to make tepache. Ranging in color from light gold to darker red, tepache can be made with brown or turbinado sugar, or traditional piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar). Some recipes call for the addition of hot peppers, others for an array of spices from ginger to cinnamon to cloves to tamarind pods. Considering that tepache is fermented, it can contain trace amounts of alcohol, but some recipes also call for the addition of beer to the beverage.
To make tepache, find a large fermentation-grade glass bottle. This part is important; to ferment properly, the jar should be capped to keep out debris, but not sealed so tightly that the pressure of the fermentation bubbles cause the jar to explode. Alternatively, you can brew tepache in a large vessel covered with a dish towel and a rubber band. If you are using a sealed bottle, know that when fermenting liquids there’s always a small chance of the jar shattering upon breaking the seal. I like to wear swimming goggles in moments like these. You can protect yourself as you see fit.
It’s best to use organic pineapple and ginger when making tepache, as you’ll use the exterior of both items and don’t want to risk contaminating your drink with pesticides.
For a large batch of tepache, start by slicing off the top and bottom of a large pineapple. Cut the pineapple, including the rind, into 1-inch chunks and drop them into a 4 quart container. Wash and crush a 4-inch piece of fresh ginger (no need to peel it) and add it to the container along with a small quartered habanero or jalapeno pepper, 2 cups brown sugar, and 2 crushed cinnamon sticks. Add 1 cup of water and use the top of a wooden spoon to muddle the mixture a bit. Fill the rest of the container with enough water to fill the jar most of the way. Cap the jar and leave it to ferment in a warm and dry place for 2 days.
After 2 days, the tepache should be fizzy upon removing the cap. Strain the tepache through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into clean vessel. Cap the strained tepache and let it sit at room temperature for another day. Transfer the tepache to the fridge to chill, then serve. Tepache is wonderful on its own, but also makes a darn fine cocktail mixer.