I’ve been using a new garnish this Tiki Month, and thought that I’d share it and see who has tried it before: Dehydrated Pineapple. It easy to make (with the right equipment), keeps well, has all sorts of artistic applications, and is just delicious on its own.
Start by choosing a good whole pineapple. You don’t want it to be fully ripe. Choose an all green one with little to no golden yellow, if you can find it. Under-ripe fruit is less juicy, but the internal structures are more uniform, making the dried fruit more sturdy and more attractive. Cut off both ends (reserve the leaves for other garnish uses), and use a large serrated knife to peel the outer layer, like this.
Cut the peeled fruit in half lengthwise, leaving two half cylinders of fruit. Slice these into half circle slices about 1/4″-3/8″ thick. You could do this with your serrated knife, but it is near impossible to get uniform thickness. I use a nice v-blade kitchen mandoline like this one. A v-blade will cut pineapple a lot smoother. Smoother is safer with a mandoline. If you have never worked with a mandoline, it is half kitchen tool, and half serial killer. If you don’t want to have the terms “GBH” or “dismemberment” in your medical file, obey all safety instructions for use… and then use some more.
Use the slider that comes wiht your mandoline to hold the fruit and keep your hand away from the blade. I not only do that, but I also wear a Level Five Cut-Resistant Glove. If you are wearing the glove, why bother with the mandoline’s protective slider? Because if OSHA were around in the middle ages, armorers would have had to post disclaimers about chainmail being only “sword-resistant”. Protect yourself. And protect your glove by wearing a latex or nitrile glove over it. These gloves are a bitch to clean.
When you have your pineapple sliced up, you will need to get out your paring knife for a few minutes. First, the fibrous core of the fruit is, and will remain after drying, inedible. It will also shrink at a far different rate and will pucker your slices. I simply cut a quick triangle to remove all or most of this core. Then look at the curved edge. There will be a few places where the “eyes” of the pineapple did not get trimmed off. These are also inedible. Cut them out as well. Here is a before and after. Don’t worry about being too precise here, the drying process will obscure your imprecision.
Once your fruit is ready, lay it out on the trays of your dehydrator. You could use your oven, but that requires a lot more care, babysitting, and exact timing. That’s a lot of work I can avoid by employing a dehydrator like mine which costs less than sixty bucks and is wildly useful for all sorts of things.
Set your dehydrator to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it run. If possible, set it in an out of the way corner near where you and/or guests will be gathering, because good lord does this process smell glorious for the first five hours or so. The drying time will vary according to the thickness, but count on about 24 hours. Be aware, they will look done after about six to twelve hours, but will still be damp inside and won’t last as long. When done, the pineapple will look like this.
The slices are now about a third as thick as before, and not quite brittle. Keep stored in an airtight container and they will last a long time… if you don’t use or simply eat them first. The PeguWife calls the end result pineapple jerky, which is what it is… with all the same benefits of durability, portability, and delectibility as good meat jerky.
This exact same process works with lemons, limes, oranges, etc. Just be even more careful with the mandolin because these fruits are smaller. I’ve noticed dehydrated limes n particular have become more popular of late at commercial bars. I suspect this popularity is due to the fact that large numbers of these can be made up and kept for long periods of time, saving time before service day to day, as much as it is to the aesthetic or the novelty. That said, the aesthetic and the novelty is great, too.
You can cut the dried fruit, especially the pineapple, if you have a very sharp knife, and straddle the rim of a glass like fresh fruit (as shown up top). You can also lay it flat across the top of the rim, or nestle it in with a bouquet of other garnish in grand Tiki fashion. I’ve found that you can also use those cool tiny wooden clothespins to clip two pieces together and grasp the rim of the glass that way, as show in this close up from a Trinidad Via Kingston.