If you’re like me, even a little bit, you’ve never finished the pain-in-the-ass that is peeling a pineapple and thought, Hey, I want another food-prep project.
Even if it was a pink pineapple sent directly from heaven.
What you’ve probably done instead is sucked the blood from a knife-jabbed finger, listened to your back pop as you leaned over to pick up a sliver or four of pineapple rind from the floor, wondered how the hell you got pineapple juice all the way across the kitchen, and swore to never again eat pineapple unless someone else cuts it up for you or — you’re not unreasonable, you give the universe options — cuts it up and puts it on the rim of a glass full of something sweet and strong and frozen.
Then, with a little more gusto than is actually necessary, you swept the peels and the crown into the trash can and cursed when the crown poked a hole in the trash bag.
But you didn’t see the bag tear, not really, so you moved on to just eating the damn pineapple already.
I won’t judge you for any of that. I promise.
I’ve let myself off the hook for doing it plenty of times.
I’m here to tell you that because of tepache, my world has changed, and with it my view of pineapple rinds.
I’d never heard of tepache when the lady at the taquería asked if I’d like some.
The tacos she’d just set in front of me looked heavenly. I could smell the fresh corn tortillas and the perfectly seasoned meat.
Just by looking at the salsa, I could tell it was loaded with the perfect combination of heat and flavor.
The onions and cilantro were diced up and ready to be sprinkled on top of the tacos.
The limes were cut and ready to squeeze.
And they were the good limes, key limes, not whatever infuriating limes available in most of the US that are 98% fiber and 2% juice.
A sea breeze was dancing through the open doors and windows of the taquería’s seating area.
Everything was perfect.
So of course I said I’d like a glass.
While she was ladling a glass from the Thermos, I grabbed my phone to Google what I was about to drink.
You’ve probably figured it out by now, based on reading the headline and putting two and two together: tepache is a beverage made by fermenting the peel and core of pineapples.
The brew is sweetened with piloncillo (or brown sugar if you can’t get piloncillo, which is a bummer) and flavored with cinnamon and/or clove.
After fermenting, the tepache is chilled.
Some folks cut the result with water, some folks add beer to boost the alcohol content.
You could probably add something higher-octane if you wanted.
That’s as far as I got before the lady brought my glass over.
And was rewarded once again for trusting the culinary genius that is Mexican food.
The tepache was deliciously crisp and refreshing, which was absolutely welcome in the heat and humidity of Manzanillo in July.
There was a hint of that tangy kombucha bitterness, perfectly offset by the piloncillo and spices.
There was a hint of a lager taste to it, which I found surprising at first. I’d expected it to be a bit more like an apple cider.
Then I decided to stop thinking about what tepache tasted like and just enjoy it.
Which was very easy to do.
Both on its own and paired with my tacos — barbacoa and picadillo for those of you keeping track at home — the tepache was splendid.
It was so good, in fact, that I am actually looking forward to peeling a pineapple in my own kitchen so that I can make a batch of tepache at home.
PS — It’s worth clicking that recipe link to see how nicely a pro can cut up a pineapple. Whoever did that can cut pineapple for me any day.