September 12, 2010

La Gringa's Fresh Pineapple Ice Cream Recipe

La Gringa's Fresh Pineapple Cream ice cream recipeFresh Pineapple Cream ice cream

Pineapple ice cream is tricky! When I saw chef Julia Child's recommendation to use CANNED pineapple, I knew that I had to come up with something else. Julia loved to use the best, richest, and freshest ingredients, but she suggested that fresh pineapple loses its flavor and 'perfume' when frozen, so I believed her.

I live within a few miles of acres and acres of Dole pineapple fields. I can buy a fresh pineapple for less than a tiny can of processed pineapple. I'd be embarrassed to use canned, although I am starting to worry about the growing number of empty pineapple fields I've seen during the past year.

Picking a pineapple

First, a word about pineapples. When we bring pineapples home, generally they are mostly green and don't have much aroma at all. We leave them at room temperature for anywhere from one to three days until they are mostly yellow and have a wonderful fresh, tropical perfume.

Take care that the pineapple you buy doesn't have a fermented odor or bruises or soft spots. Those spots may start molding before the pineapple is at its peak. Look for one which has at least a little yellow at the base and at least a little pineapple aroma when you smell the bottom of it. The further the golden yellow color goes up from the base of the fruit, the sweeter and more aromatic it will be.

I was thoroughly confused about why almost every site I checked said that pineapples "will not ripen or get any sweeter after they are picked." After I drafted this bold statement: "Maybe I am confusing ripeness with color and sweetness, but of course, pineapples ripen and continue to get sweeter after they are picked," I decided I should check with an expert.

So I contacted a biologist friend, Dr. David Ashby, who worked for Dole for 30 years, most of that in La Ceiba. Woah! My beliefs have been shaken to the core. He said that pineapples do not ripen or get sweeter after being picked. After badgering him with questions about aroma and its affect on our perception of flavor, here is what he said:

And while I am not an expert in the area of aroma, taste, etc. I would agree that where there are many green pineapples together, there is little aroma noticeable, but as they turn color, the aroma becomes stronger. This would likely affect the perception of taste. On the plant, brix (sugar content) increases and acidity decreases over time. This process halts once picked. Picked too soon and the pineapple lacks sweetness and has an acid taste. It is a delicate balancing act to pick fruit with good brix, not too acid, but that won't bruise during shipping.

I don't doubt the science, but I have to believe that the increased aroma or 'perfume' of a yellow pineapple or something has an affect on the taste to the human tongue!

El Jefe, who grew up in the midst of the pineapple fields and has been eating pineapples all of his life, doesn't want to believe it either. He suggested that we do a taste test. There is no time for that now. I'll have to report on that some other time.

Another tip I read was to use the pineapple the same day that you buy it. Hmmm. That may be because pineapples in the US already have several days of post-picked life. Here in Honduras, if you are lucky enough to find a fully ready pineapple, then yes, use it the same day. If you are not that lucky, wait a day or two or three until it is. A lady who used to work for Dole told me that a pineapple is ready when the bottom three rows between the 'eyes' have turned yellow. I like to wait longer for the sweetest flavor and generally wait until it is yellow about 3/4 of the way up. (Still clinging to my beliefs!) The bottom will always be the sweetest part of the pineapple.

What do you think? Am I clinging to an old wife's tale or is there a difference in flavor of a yellow pineapple?

I was thinking about the fact that many pineapples would have days or maybe even more than a week of post-picked life before it gets to the US, yet the pineapples I recall buying in Texas were always still green. Further thinking about the difference between my hot and humid kitchen and your lovely air-conditioned one, I'm wondering if you might even consider putting your pineapple outside in the shade during warm weather if you decide to give it another day or two.

El Jefe stamp of approval

The following is the fresh pineapple ice cream recipe that I came up with. El Jefe says that this is his all time favorite ice cream, super rich and creamy with a fabulous pineapple flavor, though it does take more time than most of my ice cream recipes. One advantage, besides the great flavor, is that a large pineapple is often enough for two batches of ice cream, so the second batch will go much quicker.

For a lower fat version, you could use only 1 cup of cream and make up the difference with milk. I don't think the ice cream will suffer from that substitution as it is very rich and creamy. If you are lucky enough to have a super sweet pineapple, the sugar could be reduced to 3/4 cup.

La Gringa's Fresh Pineapple Cream Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 fully ripe pineapple
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (* for 2 batches, see below)
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups cream
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk (approximate)

1. Lay the pineapple down and cut off the bottom and top. Stand it up again and trim off the outer shell, cutting out any dark "eyes" that remain. Cut the pineapple into quarters vertically. Trim off and discard the section of hard center core from each piece. Your knife should easily slide down between the ripe pineapple and the hard core with little effort. Cut each quarter lengthwise into two and then slice the fruit into about 1/2 inch chunks. The chunk size isn't critical. (Here is a nice how to cut a pineapple pictorial that is basically the way that I do it, though I can't bear to waste so much of the fruit, so I fiddle with cutting out the eyes more than any Honduran I know.)

2. Measure the chunks: 3-4 cups of chunks will make one batch; 5-7 cups will make two batches of ice cream. At this point, decide if you are going to process the fruit for one or two batches* (see below). The extra processed fruit freezes well, so you can save it for another day. Other options are to use the excess fruit for topping** (see below) or just reserve the extra fresh fruit for another use.

3. Put 3 to 4 cups of pineapple chunks into a large saute pan with the sugar and cinnamon. I used 4 cups of chunks which became 2 cups after cooking and became about 1 1/2 cups after pureeing. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the pineapple looks slightly translucent and the sugar and juice have cooked into a thick syrup, usually about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Below are some photos so you can get an idea of what you will see. Click to enlarge any of the photos.

Cooking pineappleThe pineapple, sugar, and cinnamon in the pan. No liquid is added.

the pineapple 5 minutes laterAfter 5 minutes, the sugar has dissolved and the pineapple juice is boiling.

the pineapple 10 minutes laterAfter 10 minutes of cooking, you'll think that you have way too much liquid. But that liquid is going to condense and evaporate, leaving an intensely flavored syrup.

the pineapple 15 minutes laterAfter 15 minutes, you'll see that the most of the pineapple is beginning to look slightly translucent and the juice is thickening.

the pineapple 30 minutes laterAfter 30 minutes, the liquid has reduced and thickened. The cooking time doesn't require much attention. Use medium-high heat so that the mixture is bubbling and just stir occasionally.
Tip: Do not leave it to go outside to catch chickens. I trimmed off those browned bits. Thankfully the syrup had not burned.

Another emergency came up and I had to stick it in the refrigerator. The syrup was quite thick when I returned home.

the pineapple purée3. Put the pineapple mixture along with the liquid into a blender and purée. After puréeing, my 2 cups became 1 1/2 cups. Pineapple fruit tends to get stringy in the ice cream maker so process until it is very smooth. (Do as I say, not as I do.) The cooked mixture should taste very sweet as it will taste less sweet to the tongue once it is frozen and diluted with the other ingredients. Chill the purée. The pineapple can be prepared a day ahead of time, or longer if frozen.

* Preparing pineapple for two batches

Since pineapple size can vary so much, you may have enough for two batches (5-7 cups of chunks). If you do, add about 1/4 cup of sugar for each additional cup of pineapple chunks. After cooking, put about 2 cups of cooked fruit at a time into the blender to purée thoroughly. Divide the purée into 2 containers of about 1 to 1 1/2 cups each. Chill one batch for your ice cream and freeze the other for another day.

** Using part of the pineapple for topping

Using any excess pineapple for ice cream topping is tricky. I have roughly chopped (in the blender) some of the cooked pineapple for topping and El Jefe likes it, but it is too sweet for my taste. What I'm going to try the next time I have extra pineapple (but not enough for two batches) is to reduce the amount of extra sugar, spoon out some of the chunks after about 15 minutes of cooking, and drain them thoroughly. I think that may lock in the flavor without sweetening the pineapple too much. Alternately, you could just reserve a few cooked and sweetened chunks for garnish.

Using fresh pineapple chunks for topping doesn't work very well as the fresh pineapple tastes very acidic and flavorless compared to the ice cream.

Now that the pineapple is ready and chilled ....

4. Beat the eggs for 2 minutes with a wire whisk. Whisk in the cream and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the sweeten pineapple purée. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups milk, or enough to make no more than 5 cups of ice cream mix. Of course, alternatively you could make a cooked custard base with the milk and eggs.

the pineapple ice cream mix5. Chill the mix thoroughly (1 to 2 hours) in the freezer, stirring occasionally. When the ice cream begins to freeze around the edges of the container, stir in the frozen bits for a few seconds, turn on machine, and pour mix into your machine. Follow your machine's instructions for freezing.

If you can stand waiting, let the finished ice cream firm up in the freezer for an hour or two. Serve topped with excess sweetened fruit or purée, if desired.


See also my ice cream making tips, the raw egg controversy and alternatives, and, if you are in the market for a machine, my ice cream maker reviews. All of my ice cream recipes can be found by clicking the "LG recipes" topic in the sidebar or below.

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