grilled pineapple

Grilled pineapple

25 May 2017

At its best, pineapple is a euphorically transporting fruit, flooding one’s senses with sweet tropical juice and seductive fantasies of blindingly bright sand beaches and sparkling blue seas. But unless you live in Hawaii or other tropics, a more typical pineapple impression is tart and stringy, pale and dry. On the mainland, buying a whole pineapple can feel like a buying a lottery ticket – you might get lucky, but chances are it’s a loser.

Fortunately there’s an easy trick to transforming mediocre pineapple into great pineapple: just grill it. Grilling is almost like inducing ripening of the pineapple – the heat concentrates the fruit’s sugars and brings out its juiciness, coaxing even a bland specimen into something worth savoring.

And if you don’t like that prickly feeling you get in your mouth after eating pineapple? Grilling solves that problem too. Those protein-digesting enzymes in pineapple are what make it an excellent meat tenderizer (pineapple juice is often used in Korean BBQ marinades, for example), but they’re not so awesome when they’re breaking down the tissue in your mouth. The heat of grilling deactivates those enzymes so you can eat without fear.

This is the perfect time of year to grill pineapple – it’s prime pineapple season in Hawaii, so price and supply should be good, and it’s finally grilling weather out.

A ripe pineapple should smell sweet at the stem end and its flesh should give slightly when you squeeze it. Green leaves are a good indicator of freshness. And a juicy pineapple will feel heavy for its size. I like to see some yellow color outside, but experts say a green pineapple isn’t necessarily unripe. Careful of a pineapple that is too yellow – if it smells funky, it’s unappetizingly overripe.

Pineapples have been a symbol of hospitality since colonial days – a breathtakingly expensive treasure from exotic lands, a status symbol and showpiece to awe guests. Between its charmingly distinctive appearance, remarkable sweetness and extreme scarcity, the pineapple was so coveted that society hosts would rent them for events as a show of wealth and rank.

Considering its history, the pineapple strikes me as a funny symbol for hospitality, given that the true virtue of hospitality is not at all showy. To me, hospitality is the simple and humble act of making someone feel at home in your home.

Nobody embodied hospitality better than my American grandma, Ann, who died earlier this month, a few weeks short of her 95th birthday. My mom wasn’t Ann’s biological daughter – she was a 19-year-old refugee from China by way of Korea when Ann, a 40-year-old Navy wife, picked her up from the bus station in the small college town of San Luis Obispo, California. Discovering that my mom had nowhere to go, Ann brought her home for the night.

For the next three years, while Ann’s husband Glen earned his degree thanks to the GI Bill, my mom became Ann and Glen’s oldest daughter, a shy older sister to their three children, aged 8, 10 and 13. My mom had no family in America, and Ann, unasked and unheralded, simply gave her one – not just for those college years but for the remaining 55 years of Ann’s life.

A pineapple can’t possibly convey that extraordinary level of hospitality. But all the same I’m dedicating this post to Ann – my third grandma and the one I knew the longest by far – and to the warm, funny, irreverent family who just gathered together last weekend in Nevada to celebrate the life she shared with us all.

But back to grilled pineapple, because it’s a holiday weekend and time to celebrate the imminent arrival of summer.

Start by cutting the ends off the pineapple.

Stand the pineapple on its cut end and slice off the peel. Try to cut thinly, as the flesh near the surface is sweetest.

Look at the brown eyes on your peeled pineapple. See how they follow diagonal lines?

You want to cut the eyes out along the diagonal – two cuts to make a little V-shaped trench.

Keep going, rotating the pineapple after you’ve finished one side, until you’ve removed them all.

Now stand the pineapple back up on its end and split it in half lengthwise. Then cut each half in half again, for at total of four fat wedges. Stand each wedge up on its end and cut out the tough strip of inner core. You can grill the large wedges or cut each in half again lengthwise before grilling.

Brush wedges with oil and place them on a hot grill. Cook for a few minutes, until pineapple is starting to char.

Grill all sides well. The pineapple will get more golden and juicy as it cooks.

Taste a little sample. If it’s still too tart for your liking, drizzle a bit of honey over the warm pineapple. Serve wedges whole or slice into pieces.

Grams was an unflappable Navy wife, a lady, a rock star, and a total inspiration. We had many pictures from her lifetime, but this one that graced the cover of her memorial program said it all.

Happy Memorial Day! Saluting Ann and Glen, and the memories of so many in our armed forces.

Memorial Day recipes from the archives

Grilled Pineapple
Don’t fret if you picked a less-than-ripe pineapple: a few minutes on the grill will bring out the juiciness and concentrate the sweetness of the fruit (honey can help too if needed). Another bonus: the heat will eliminate any prickly-tongue feeling that raw pineapples can cause.

Ingredients

  • Whole pineapple
  • Olive or other cooking oil, for brushing
  • Optional: 2-4 tablespoons honey

Preparation

  1. Using a cutting board and sharp knife, slice ends off pineapple. Stand pineapple on cut end and carefully cut off strips of peel, as thin as you can manage (the flesh near the peel is sweetest). When pineapple is fully peeled, lay it down on its side. Note that the brown eyes of the pineapple follow a diagonal pattern. To remove the eyes while keeping as much of the sweet flesh as possible, cut V-shaped trenches, following the diagonal lines of the pineapple eyes, until they are all removed (see pictures).
  2. Stand trimmed pineapple on end and slice in half vertically. Slice each end lengthwise again, making a total of four big wedges.
  3. Stand each wedge vertically and slice down to remove the hard center core of the pineapple. If you want smaller wedges for serving, cut each quarter-wedge lengthwise into half again before grilling, giving you a total of eight wedges.
  4. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Brush pineapple wedges with oil and cook for a few minutes on each side, until pineapple is well heated and lightly charred (flesh will turn from pale yellow to more golden).
  5. Drizzle warm pineapple with honey if is still too tart for your liking. Serve wedges whole or sliced.

Notes

  • A ripe pineapple should smell sweet at the stem end and its flesh should give slightly when you squeeze it. Green leaves are a good indicator of freshness. And a juicy pineapple will feel heavy for its size. I like to see some yellow color outside, but experts say a green pineapple isn’t necessarily unripe. Careful of a pineapple that is too yellow – if it smells funky, it’s unappetizingly overripe.
  • If you don’t have honey, mix a couple tablespoons of brown sugar with the oil before your brush the pineapple wedges.
  • You can also cut fat rings of the trimmed pineapple instead of wedges. It’s just a little more work to cut out the core of each round.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kathy 26 May 2017 at 11:38 am

Thank you so much for sharing the story about Ann, the epitome of altruism, and your mom, a stong survivor. What amazing, much needed role models these ladies are for the world today. I’ll think of this story now everytime I see a pineapple. 🙂

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