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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

How to Dehydrate Pineapple

Food storage and learning what foods your family likes can involve a lot of trial and error. And in our home there has been a lot of error. In fact the kids seem to focus on all my errors and sometimes don't exhibit the proper appreciation for my efforts in trying whatever it is out now, when we can feed the mistakes to the chickens and dogs, rather than later, when they may just have to eat and grin and bear it.

Fortunately for you, I have made a lot of errors that you can learn from and not have to repeat yourselves.

One of these errors was in dehydrating pineapple. See, before I started dehydrating pineapple, I'd read a bit about it on the 'net and in books. Not much was said about preparing the pineapple, only that it was really good, and it was as sweet as candy.

True, it was a sweet as candy, however, it was also rather chewy, and no one really liked that. If you like your pineapple chewy, that's great. The important thing is to do what you and your family will eat.

Anyway, as I said, we didn't like chewy texture of pineapple bits. They didn't taste bad, but the dried pineapple chunks just didn't get us excited. And so I wasn't going to dehydrate any more pineapple for my family. And then, either I read it somewhere online or I came up with the idea myself, I'm not sure which. As I was composing this blog post, I tried to find anything anyone had written about slicing pineapple in lengthwise strips to dehydrate and came up empty-handed. So maybe I came up with the idea myself.

Instead of slicing the pineapple horizontally and removing the core so that you have rings, I tried slicing the pineapple vertically, from top to bottom, to produce thin, lengthwise strips. It was an instant hit with the kids. They're like mini fruit strips or fruit rolls. And we love it this way.

Here's how I cut up my pineapple. It's different from most of what I've seen online. Maybe there's a little more wasted, but it's what I was taught when on vacation in Hawaii and I've used it ever since. First off, after washing, chop off the top. (Everyone agrees on this point.) Next, cut the pineapple in half, right through the core, top to bottom. (Except for chopping off the top, all cuts are top to bottom.) You don't need a pineapple corer. Then cut each half into quarters, through the core again. And repeat to cut each quarter into eighths. At this point it's time to remove the rind or peel. With your fingertips of one hand holding the core, use a sharp knife in the other hand to cut away the rind. Then cut away the core. Now turn the one-eighth section of pineapple onto its outer edge (where the rind had been a few seconds ago), and slice that section lengthwise again into three very thin strips.

Carefully place the strips on your dehydrator trays. As I sit here composing this post, I'm thinking that the flexible mesh screens of my Excalibur dehydrator make it much easier to remove the dehydrated strips. It might not be so easy to remove those strips from trays made of rigid plastic like the Nesco dehydrator has. If you have rigid trays, you might want to test a few strips before buying ten pineapples to dehydrate and then wishing you hadn't.

I set my temperature to 110 degrees, and it takes about twelve to eighteen hours. Some people recommend turning the pineapple halfway through the drying process, but I haven't found this to be necessary. Of course, this could be because these strips are a lot thinner than what others are doing. I've found that pineapple strips, and indeed all somewhat sticky fruits, are easier to remove from the trays when they are still somewhat warm. Carefully remove the strips. Most people end it here and just put them in jars, and most people dehydrating pineapple are not doing it for longer term storage.

However, I take the preservation and storage a step further. I think it helps them last longer and prevents waste. I cut off about 10-12 inches of plastic wrap and lay the strips on the wrap. Starting at one end, I put one strip in the middle along the edge. I then roll that first pineapple strip one turn away from me so that the first pineapple strip now has plastic on both sides. The second strip gets put on top of the first (with the layer of plastic between them), and then rolled one turn so that the top of the second strip is now on the bottom, and sandwiched between layers of plastic wrap. The third strip goes on top of the first two, and the process continues until you come to the end of your plastic wrap. Then the ends are folded over and the neat little bundle is placed in a Ziploc bag (if you live in a desert) or in a canning jar to be vacuum sealed (if you live outside the desert).

This process serves a couple of purposes. One, the package of pineapple strips is ready to go quickly. You don't need to get out baggies and re-package for lunches, backpacking, or Armageddon. They're already packaged in serving sizes. If you are doing these for small children, just put fewer strips in the roll. Wrapping the strips separately in plastic also helps keep them from sticking together even as you try to pack more in so as to not waste space. Even in a desert, after a while, they get sticky and kind of mush together, and then they don't look so appetizing anymore and no one wants to eat them.

A few notes. In the pineapple class in Hawaii, we were taught the foolproof way to pick a good pineapple: Pick it up and smell the bottom. If it smells like pineapple, it's good. If it doesn't, it's not. The only caveat is if the pineapple has just been pulled from the cooler at the store, the aroma might be difficult to detect. As you are checking pineapple bottoms (sounds disturbing, doesn't it?), check for mold on the cut. If it's moldy, pass on to the next pineapple. Make sure you are getting a green or yellow-green pineapple that looks fresh, not one that was picked a long time ago and is turning kind of brown. If the pineapple has started to rot, your strips will turn a yucky brown. They might still taste okay, but they definitely won't look okay.

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