Confession time: I’ve been using canned pineapple juice.
It’s just… I don’t make a lot of drinks that call for pineapple juice. I only need it when I’m making piña coladas or painkillers, which I kinda think of as garbage drinks. Fun, loveable garbage drinks! But if I’m making those drinks, it’s because I’m deliberately choosing convenience over quality; if I wanted to make a good drink, I’d reach for a better recipe. But I’ve still felt bad about it. Canned pineapple juice tastes like metal.
And there’s another reason: I was intimidated. I own one of those great, big juice-anything juicers, and I dread using it. It’s a bear to clean and I don’t like lugging it out of the cupboard. I’d seen Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s simple pineapple juicing technique, described in his book The Bar Book (an excellent reference for the home bartender). It sounded ingenious, but I just didn’t know how much of a hassle it would really be.
This weekend, I had a good recipe I wanted to make, Ohana Joe, and it calls for pineapple juice. So I juiced my very first pineapple à la Morgenthaler, and I can tell you it was silly easy.
Here’s how it’s done:
Buy a pineapple.
You’re not going for looks, you’re going for juice. Don’t pay any attention to the leaves on top. Just like any other fruit you’re going to juice, pick one that seems heavy for its size. It should be yellow-orange, smell sweet, and maybe even be a bit soft.
Cut the pineapple into chunks.
You could use a pineapple corer, but I don’t own one, so I did it the way it’s described in these step-by-step instructions. No need to remove the core, though.
Purée the chunks.
Put all the chunks in a food processor and turn them into a purée. I have a Vitamix blender, so I used that instead, and it took about 20 seconds for the chunks to be turned into almost-juice. You may need to push the pineapple chunks down towards the blade.
Prep a salad spinner.
Line a salad spinner with doubled-over cheesecloth. Instead of cheesecloth, I use one of these bags. They’re reusable, and they see a lot of action in my kitchen. They’re especially great for straining syrups.
Put the purée into the spinner.
Pour the pineapple purée into the cheesecloth, then fold the edges of the cheesecloth over into the bowl of the spinner so you can close it.
Spin the spinner, and through the magic of centrifugal force, the juice will come flying out of the purée. Whee! Pause frequently to pour the juice out of the spinner. Keep spinning until you’re not getting any more juice.
Using this method, I got 19 ounces of beautiful pineapple juice from a medium-large pineapple, and it took maybe five or ten minutes total. Way faster than I would have guessed, and cleanup was pretty easy, too.
Michael Paul, whose work involves prepping pineapple juice for some of the best known bars in San Francisco, says you can skip the spinner step if you have some extra time, as the solids will settle on their own:
The juice tends to separate and a heavy foam forms at the top after about 30-45 minutes. You can skim the foam off with a ladle or a conical strainer. It’s a thick layer when done in bulk.
William Prestwood, bartender at San Francisco’s Pagan Idol, shares the following tips:
Tip: For juicing pineapples at home, I use a (Hamilton Beach) centrifugal juicer I got at Target for around $50. No extra straining required, and you can use the meat for cookies, bread, etc. When selecting your pineapple, look for symmetry, check the bottom for mold (pineapples go bad from the bottom up), and pinch one of the little nipples for the smell test! Cheers! > bonus tip: Pineapple contains a flesh-eating enzyme. Wear gloves while handling, and don’t eat whole raw pineapples to the dome (ie. The whole pineapple) Canned pineapple has been heated, and does not have the enzyme. Reminds me of eating 3 kiwis in a row as a youngster and melting the flesh off of my tongue. Ouch!
Aloha Julie, who does a lot of entertaining at her home tiki bar in Austin, says:
An option that falls in between canned and fresh squeezed in my opinion is Trader Joe’s in a carton.