Pineapple preserves are as close as I got to the tropics this year. It’s okay. I just escaped to the kitchen instead of the beach. Like the mangos of a couple of weeks ago, pineapples are abundant and less expensive than usual since they’re in season in places like Hawaii. I rarely cook with pineapple but recalled a favorite dish of fresh pineapple poached in vanilla syrup and thought it could be replicated as a preserve. I didn’t expect it to reduce to puree so I decided to cut the flesh into little cubes and preserve them in syrup. This was a big success.
Christine Ferber, the doyenne of preserving, uses an overnight method to develop the base of her jams. Sometimes, fruit and sugar are cooked together just a little, cooled, refrigerated overnight and then turned into jam the next day. This is particularly useful when developing pectin from apple or citrus. Alternatively, raw fruit is macerated in sugar for a few hours or overnight, which draws out the liquid. That’s what I did here. The next day, the fruit and liquid may be cooked together to the gel point. Alternatively, the liquid is drained from the fruit and boiled to the gel point before the fruit is added, resulting in a jewel-like suspension of fruit in translucent jelly.
This is the method that Cathy Wheelbarrow of the blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen used for pineapple preserves, crediting Ferber, and I followed her lead. Laced with vanilla beans and dark rum, the combination worked brilliantly and produced a delicious result in texture and flavor. I have found that preserving pineapple this way turns it into a more versatile condiment than I expected, so I find myself spooning it into soup and sauce rather than slathering it on toast.
Pineapple Preserves with Vanilla and Rum adapted from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen
I medium-large pineapple
3 c sugar
¼ c dark rum
1 vanilla bean
Peel and core the pineapple, carefully removing the woody “eyes.” Cut it into ¼-inch dice and add it to a large bowl. Add the sugar and rum and stir to dissolve the sugar. Halve the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pineapple mixture. Add the pods to the mixture also. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pineapple mixture. Quarter the lemon shells and add them also. (Add lemon seeds wrapped in cheesecloth if there are any. They help develop the gel.) Cover with crumpled parchment and loosely with plastic wrap (to keep refrigerator odors from penetrating the liquid). Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, drain the liquid into a large, wide heavy-bottomed saucepan, preserving the pineapple and discarding the lemon shells, seeds and vanilla bean pod. (I let it drain for half an hour to extract as much liquid as possible from the fruit. I also rinsed the vanilla bean pod and buried it in a jar of sugar that I keep for the purpose.) Set the fruit aside.
Prepare jars for water bath canning and place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.
Bring the pineapple liquid to a light boil over medium heat and cook it until it reaches 218 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a drop placed on the frozen saucer wrinkles to the touch. This will take at least 30 minutes.
Add the diced pineapple to the liquid and cook it for about 10 minutes, until the fruit is fully cooked and the mixture seems well assimilated.
Pour into the prepared jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 8 four-ounce jars.