Travelling over from Maui, Hawaii, to the pineapple island of Lanai, was a wondrous trip on a large charter catamaran. We docked and were met by some cheerful locals. We had arranged a plantation tour, and our guide was a chatty Hawaiian woman. She reminded me a bit of South Pacific’s Bloody Mary, with a bit of advice for everyone. This was so long ago that my two daughters, now both lovely grown women and one to be married this summer, were very small. With them in tow we got special treatment. Halfway through the tour our guide pulls up to a field where pineapples are being harvested. She hauls a machete out of the van, tromps into the field, and moments later comes back with a large fresh fruit. The pickers had left it as too ripe for canning, but perfect for eating. She explained the Dole Company let them take as many as they wanted, and after a lifetime of picking pineapple, they didn’t want to eat much.
With a few deft strokes of her machete, the pineapple held in her other hand, she had peeled it and removed all the spiky eyes. Then cutting off luscious chunks, she offered them to the girls on the tip of her knife. The fruit was sweeter than candy, the juices ran down their faces and I’m sure they got an instant sugar rush. It was the best pineapple I’d ever tasted, before or since.
Sadly, soon after our visit, Dole sold the island and move their pineapple operations to the Philippines. After languishing in the doldrums for many years, Oracle chief Larry Ellison bought the island for untold millions last June. His plans are unclear, but can you hear mega resort for the ϋber weathly? I wonder what happened to Bloody Mary and her kin?
I’ve never lost the trick of peeling a pineapple Hawaiian style, cutting a spiral groove down the side to follow the pattern and remove the eyes and finally trimming off any excess skin, but there are easier methods and a simpler one is given below.
Another fruit I love, which is also tricky to peel, is the Ataulfo mango, the Mexican version of the Indian Alfonso mango. It’s flesh is yellow, sweet and not at all fibrous, which is what distinguishes it from common mangoes. Once you have tried it you will never touch another variety.
We first began buying Alfonso mangoes in the East Indian and Chinese markets in Toronto. I have a hilarious photo of Diane, dressed in an orange silk shirt, carrying an orange Dooney and Bourke handbag, standing in front of stacks of orange boxed mangoes, haggling with the vendor over the price of a case. She doesn’t like the photo so it won’t appear here, as she says it makes her look like a big mango. I believe she bought the whole case of a dozen for $10, so they cost less than a dollar each. They are only in season for a couple of months, but worth tracking down.
We discovered Ataulfos, named after the farmer on whose land they were found growing, when we were in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and that’s where I learned the easy way to peel them. Simplicity itself when you know how, and I have included photo instructions here.
The final fruit that is difficult to peel is pomegranate, host to scores of beneficial attributes. Extracting the seeds is easy once you know how (see below). A spoonful of these ruby red tasty, crunchy seeds adds zest to any fruit dessert.
Summer is a time for serving fresh fruit desserts with a simple dollop of ice cream or crème fraîche. Markets are packed with fresh produce, including exotic fruits from warmer climes. Canadian fresh strawberries, peaches and apples are all available or will be soon. Walking around the St. Lawrence Market on our usual weekly trip we buy fresh Ataulfos and pineapple.
Here’re two really good recipes using fresh summer fruit.
Preparation time 10 min
Ingredients (per person)
½ fresh Ataulfo mango
1 kiwi fruit
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
1 scoop of mango ice cream or crème fraîche
1. Peel and slice the mango as shown in the photos.
2. Peel and slice a kiwi
3. Pile the fruits in a bowl and simply top with a scoop of ice cream or crème fraîche
Easy method for slicing a mango
Grilled pineapple sundae
Serves 6 – 8
Preparation time 30 min
Cooking time 10 min
1 whole fresh pineapple
1 box whole fresh strawberries
1 whole fresh pomegranate (or 1 cup pomegranate seeds)
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp brown cane sugar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche per person
2 oz rum (optional)
Preparation and cooking
1. Peel and slice the pineapple into long, thick chunks. (Check below for my preferred method for peeling.)
2. Mix ground allspice, cinnamon and 1/2 cane sugar together, put the pineapple in a large bowl and gently toss in the mixture until well covered. If the bowl is too small the slices may break. Lay the covered slices on some waxed paper and cover with more until you are ready to broil under the grill or BBQ.
3. Wash and hull the strawberries, then chop into medium size chunks. Mix in a bowl with the balance of the cane sugar and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. Counter-intuitively, pepper brings out the full flavour of the berries. Cover and reserve in fridge until ready to serve. For an added boost of flavour splash in a couple of shots of rum.
4. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate.
5. No more than an hour before your guests arrive, grill the pineapple slices under a hot grill until the sugar caramelizes on the surface of the fruit. Turn and grill the other side. Pay attention as it’s easy to burn the fruit. If your meal is to be an outside BBQ affair, then you can grill the fruit at the same time you cook your meat. The pineapple should be no more than warm when served. Too hot will melt the ice cream.
5. Serve on a dish, not in a bowl as your guests will need to cut the pineapple on a flat surface. Plate two or three slices of grilled pineapple, spoon over the strawberry chunks, sprinkle on a tablespoonful of pomegranate seeds and top with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche.
Easy method for peeling pineapple
You can tell when a pineapple is ripe is by the smell. Hold it up to your nose and smell the scent of sweetness. If it is soft it is too ripe. Cut the top leaves and bottom off with a sharp knife. Cut the pineapple vertically in half, then in quarters and finally cut the quarters into thick slices, probably three or four per quarter. Allowing two or three full slices per person, bag the rest in plastic for another day. It will keep fresh for three or four. Now cut the rough skin off, keeping as close to the edge as possible to conserve the fruit. Left behind will be a pattern of coarse prickly indents. With a small sharp knife, make V-shaped cuts around each indent and remove.
Easy method for extracting pomegranate seeds
Score the tough skin with a sharp knife into six or eight segments, but do not cut into the fruit. Break the fruit along the score lines. Then taking each chunk containing the seeds, gently ease out the seeds under water in a bowl of water with your fingers or a small spoon. Loose pith should float to the surface, the seeds should sink. Rinse well to remove any detritus. Take care not to break the seeds, which are very staining.
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in these recipes. Or please add your own variations for others to share.