Fermenting has intrigued me since childhood. Every fall, my parents used to shred countless heads of cabbage, by hand, enough to fill a rain barrel. They salted it, packed it in and kept it in the cold cellar. We had fresh sauerkraut “on demand” for the next year. It was great fun watching my nephews’ reactions as their grandpa removed the top layer of ferment “scum” (“EWWWW!!!”) to reach the fresh sauerkraut below. I make sauerkraut exactly the same way today, except in far smaller quantities.
Now that we know how beneficial fermented foods are for gut health, I am experimenting with fermenting all sorts of other foods.
The newest and most exciting thing I have stumbled upon is tepache (teh-PAH-chay) and the funny thing is, it’s not that new. Tepache dates back to Pre-Columbian Mexico as a popular drink among the Nahua people. Originally, corn was the base of tepache but the contemporary recipe (tepache de piña) uses pineapple rind and core to make this drink. It’s totally fine to just cut up the whole pineapple as well, which is what I did in the batch pictured below. In fact, there are countless variations on how to make tepache – rules and recipes vary and that’s what makes it so fun experimenting.
- 1 whole ripe fresh pineapple, rinsed clean (organic is best if possible)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 to 6 cloves
- 1 thumb ginger (optional)
- 1 large cone of Piloncillo ( Piloncillo, named “pylon” for its conical shape, is a raw form of pure cane sugar that is used in Mexican cooking. Alternatively, use 1 cup of brown sugar, rapadura, panela, jaggery or any variation of raw cane sugar).
- 16 cups of filtered water, or enough to cover the pineapple pieces
Cut off the crown and base of the pineapple and compost. Cut the rest up into slices and then triangles. Put the cut pieces of pineapple with rind into a 1-gallon glass jar or container.
Add the sugar and spices and enough filtered water to cover.
Muddle, or stir it well with a wooden spoon.
Cover the glass container with cheesecloth or small dishtowel, holding it firm with an elastic.
Place on counter at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
The timing of the fermentation depends on temperature and can take anywhere from 2 days in a warmer climate to a week or more to get to the bubbly refreshing drink stage. If left longer, it becomes an alcoholic beverage and if left longer still, pineapple vinegar.
I begin sampling once I see a thick layer of white foam on the top. The foam means it’s alive and fermenting. I sample by moving a bit of the foamy stuff with my spoon and testing the brew below.
It should taste light, bubbly and not too sweet. There may be a bit of a musty smell similar to an overripe pineapple, but it should not be repulsive. I find it a bit smoother and tastier than kombucha.
Aiming for the “refreshing beverage” stage rather than hooch or vinegar, I strained this batch into jars after five days on the counter. A second ferment is possible – meaning once it is strained in the jars, you let it sit another day or two to get more bubbly. It’s important to “burp” the jars at least once a day to avoid explosions from the build-up of carbon dioxide. I used one mason jar and one jar with a clip top.
Once it tastes as you like it, it should be refrigerated, where it keeps fermenting, but at a much slower pace.
Tepache tastes best very cold or over ice.
I’m sure it would also taste great in cocktails such as a piña colada.