When I was shopping the other day I ran across something I’ve rarely seen…discounted organic pineapples! Pineapple is a real favorite at my house, so full of flavor and so sweet and delicious. It’s not cheap, though! So when I ran across a cart full of sweet, juicy, big pineapples just at the peak of ripeness and priced at less than half what a pineapple normally costs?
Well, I may have over-bought just a bit.
And the next day I picked up my co-op produce bag only to find yet another ripe, beautiful spiny fruit. The thing about pineapples is, they really do have a small little window of perfect ripeness. Cut into a pineapple before that window is open and you’ll have a tough, tasteless waste. Wait a day or two after the window closes, and you’ll have mold growing on the bottom of your pineapple and a brown mushy mess inside. My family had already eaten so much pineapple that they had canker sores and were not interested in racing the clock to eat the rest of the pineapple before it was too late. What’s a frugal mom to do?
Make dried pineapple tidbits, of course! It’s cold and flu season and we can use all the vitamin C we can get, and there was no way I was going to let all that wonderful fruit go to waste. The dried pineapple is so sweet, it’s like eating little yellow pieces of chewy, vitamin infused candy. And it keeps for a long time, so when the kids are over their pineapple-overload I can take it out and set a bowl on the table for them to snack on while they do school work. It’s like a bowl of sweet, yellow sunshine! And although it does take a while to dehydrate pineapple, it’s really very simple to do.
Start with a ripe pineapple.
Mine, as you’ll see in the pictures, is just on the edge of too ripe (but hey, it was still safely in the “window” so it’s all good). If you’ve never cut a pineapple before, it can be a little daunting. It can feel like this big prickly fruit is staring you down, double-dog-daring you to try and cut it without sustaining some sort of thorny injury. Really, though, it’s not so hard once you have a plan of attack.
Start by cutting off the top and bottom of the pineapple, so that it’s flat on both ends. Toss these…that takes care of a whole lot of the sharp parts.
Now, place one hand on top of the pineapple and carefully cut off the prickly skin in strips. Don’t worry if a few spots remain, you can cut those off later. Go all the way around the pineapple until all the skin is gone. Now it’s no longer scary!
Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise, and then into fourths. The center is woody, but it’s easy to remove it without wasting too much fruit by cutting it off each pineapple quarter. Now, you’re ready to slice!
Slice the pineapple thin…this way, it won’t take forever to dry. Or, if you’re not in a hurry (or have a really great food dehydrator) you can cut it a little thicker for chewier dried fruit.
Lay the cut pineapple in a single layer on a parchment lined pan, or place it on the trays of your food dehydrator. I dehydrated mine in the oven, so I used the parchment and pan. Pop them in the oven at a very low setting…140 is ideal. If your oven doesn’t go that low, try setting it to the lowest temperature it will go and then leaving the oven door slightly open (of course you’ll want to be careful with this if you have kids, so use your judgement as to whether this will work at your house or not). Dehydrate the pineapple for 3 hours, then flip it over and leave it in for another 3 hours. Check to see if it’s dry enough, depending on your oven and the humidity where you live you may need to flip it and dry it for a little longer. If you’re using a food dehydrator, set it to 135 (or the “fruit” setting on many models) and dry for 3 hours. Flip the slices and dry for another 3-6 hours, depending on the thickness of your fruit and the humidity in the room.
Once your dehydrated pineapple is completely cool, store it in sealed bags or jars. If you won’t be using it for a while, storing it in bags in the freezer is a good way to make sure it won’t get stale. That’s all there is to it! Happy little sweet, yellow snacks for months to come.
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Do you like pineapple? Do you have a trick for cutting it?
Photography by Jennifer Leung Johnson