My second foray into the world of fermentation, following on from the fruit kimchi, has been pineapple vinegar or vinagre de Pina. I took instruction from "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Katz, my new bible for all things fermented. Having done a bit of extra googling, it seems that Diana Henry in "Cuisines of Mexico" is another proponent of the stuff and that it is a key ingredient in Mexican food.
The ingredients and the technique are super simple. Take the scraps from one pineapple (organic to avoid any nasties), add a quarter cup of sugar and one litre of water and cover with some muslin or cheesecloth. It is that simple.
I started off with it in a bowl as instructed as the vessel for fermentation is meant to have a wide mouth to encourage the juices flow and the aerobic action to kick in. After only a couple of days, it started to smell fruity and a little vinegary with a similar odour to apple cider vinegar.
I managed to prevent Saunders lobbing it into the bin for a week and then lifted the lid. The site that met me wasn't exactly what I was expecting. White, gelatinous, rubbery, and quite disgusting looking to be frank. I was moments away from lobbing it in the bin myself when I decided to hold out and google it. It turned out the mass on top was a scoby, like you find on kombucha, and a natural part of the fermentation process. The substance wasn't furry like a mould and didn't smell odd - or at least any odder than you would imagine a fruit vinegar to smell - so I decided to press on. As instructed in the recipe, I whipped out the pineapple peels, decanted into a jar and left to ferment a little more.
The colour isn't quite as dark as many of the photos I have found but I think this is because the sugar I used wasn't all that dark. Many of the recipes I have found also stick in cloves, ginger or peppercorns which would both darken the colour and pep up the flavour. Now, after about two and a half weeks, the smell has mellowed slightly but is still pleasingly fruit. I am imagining having it Mexican style over some pulled pork or incorporated into the dressing of a coleslaw. I will report back on how it tastes.
Are you are starting to think that fermentation might be the future? Most of the multitude of recipes seem to require you to mix a couple of ingredients, then go off leave them alone and have a nice sit down for a couple of weeks. Forget the precision of baking, the hard manual work of butchery, or the delicacy of fine French cuisine; fermentation is food prep for the lazy and for that reason it has my vote. Alongside the "Wild Fermentation" book, which is well worth grabbing a copy of, there is also a whole website with invaluable forums answering those niggling questions like "how fermented is too fermented?" and "is that white furry stuff poisonous?". Well worth a look.