One of the most refreshing beverages in existence is tepache de piña, a slightly fermented drink made from fresh pineapple peel and core plus brown sugar. In addition to its delicious flavor, you’ll love being able to take advantage of parts of the fruit that we usually just throw away. If you need this very Mexican drink for a special occasion, plan ahead; tepache takes 2 or 3 days to ferment and be ready to drink.
- 1 gallon (about 4 liters) water
- 1 large cone of piloncillo (about 1 pound or ½ kilo) or approx. 1 pound of brown sugar
- 1 whole ripe fresh pineapple
- 1 stick of cinnamon
Heat the water in a large pot until it starts to boil. Take the pot off the stove and add the piloncillo or brown sugar so it will dissolve while we are working with the pineapple. (If you are using piloncillo, the dissolving process will take longer; stir the water occasionally with a wooden spoon and break the piloncillo up as it softens to help this process along.
Cut the crown off of the pineapple; discard it or use it to grow a new plant. Wash the outside of the pineapple with water and a little detergent, making sure to get rid of any dirt particles or potential bugs.
Peel your pineapple. I do this on a cutting board set into the sink to reduce mess. I cut a slice off the top of the fruit, another slice off the bottom, and then slice the peel off in strips -- but use your favorite method, as long as you end up with a peeled pineapple.
Once the sugar or piloncillo has dissolved into the hot water, place the pieces of peel into the pot. Add the stick of cinnamon.
Cut the fruit of the pineapple into slices or chunks, reserving the fibrous core. Store the fruit for another use. Add the core, whole or in chunks, to the pot and stir.
Cover the pot with a dishtowel and set it on the kitchen counter or another place (at room temperature) where it is easily accessible but out of the way. The towel will keep out any foreign matter while allowing air to reach the mixture, allowing for successful fermentation.
After 24 - 36 hours, check your tepache. If you see a bit of frothy white foam on the surface of the water, it’s fermenting. You can drink it as is, or let it continue to brew another day or so. If you do not see any white froth, cover the pot again and check it after another 24 hours; the time necessary for fermentation will vary according to the temperature, ripeness of the pineapple, and other factors.
Once your tepache has reached the desired level of fermentation, strain out and discard all the solids. Transfer the liquid to a pitcher and refrigerate. Refrigerated tepache will keep for up to a week, very slowly continuing to ferment more.
Before serving, take a test drink. Add more water and/or sugar to taste. (I almost always dilute mine with more water.) Serve over ice, if desired.
Variations on Basic Tepache
Add a bit of fresh-squeezed lime juice to the final product (either to the pitcher or in individual glasses) to give it an extra-refreshing punch.
Add a few whole cloves in addition to the cinnamon to the mixture in the pot for an additional bit of spice.
Add chopped fruit (pineapple, apples, etc.) to the pitcher of tepache before drinking—similar to what is done with sangria—for added fun. Serve with a straw and a spoon.