Fresh, ripe pineapple is hard to beat. It can also be a little hard to eat.
The sweet yellow flesh hides beneath a surly-looking shell of spikes and tough notches, and it encloses a hard, fibrous core that can ruin your whole experience if you get a mouthful of it. It’s an odd shape, can be tricky to maneuver, and so is many times passed up all together in favor of its canned or pre-cut counterparts.
Let me tell you, if you’ve only ever had canned, jarred, or dried pineapple, you’ve never had pineapple.
A friend once told me they “hated” pineapple, which I almost took personal offense to. A little digging revealed they’d never had the fresh stuff, and when I fed them a piece for the first time, they couldn’t believe it was the same fruit they’d grown up eating in syrups and fruit cocktails. The texture of the canned stuff is mushier; the color and flavor faded.
It has its moments of glory, though—pineapple upside down cake just wouldn’t be the same without it. And let’s face it, canned and prepared pineapple are loads more convenient. My mom’s best friend knows darn well how to clean a fresh pineapple; she just chooses not to. Consequently, we always know to cut up a bunch extra if her sons are coming over. They’ll put away a whole one before you can say “Chiquita banana.”
Cleaning a fresh pineapple really isn’t very hard, but it is messy. That sweet nectar leaks out every which way as you cut, so make sure you’ve got a roomy workspace and take your time cleaning up to avoid stickiness later.
My mom taught me a great technique that makes it really easy to remove the core. Here’s how it’s done:
- Make sure your fruit is ripe. The skin should be somewhere between golden yellow and light brown, the bottom of it should smell strong and sweet, and the spiky leaves on top should come out easily when you give one a little tug.
- Start by laying your pineapple on its side and chopping off the top and bottom. Cut straight across, just below where the leaves meet the rind and just above the rounded butt of the fruit. You’ll have to put a little “umph” into it, but a sharp knife should cut pretty easily into a ripe pineapple.
- From here, you’re going to sit the fruit upright on its cut bottom and carefully slice away the rind around the outside from top to bottom. I find it helpful to cut the pineapple in half crosswise, so that you’ve got two shorter, round pieces. Place the fruit flat on your cutting board and hold it steady with your free hand. Position your blade between the peel and the fruit and gently saw your knife along the side of the fruit from top to bottom, following its natural curvature as you go.
- Rotate the fruit and continue cutting away the rind in this way. Work on getting deep enough to expose the flesh while leaving very little still attached to the skin. Once you’ve gone all the way around, carefully cut away any leftover round brown “eyes” or chunks of rind. A really ripe pineapple can develop brown spots like a banana (as you can see in the photos), which you should also carefully cut away.
- Cut the peeled fruit lengthwise into quarters.
- Now, the hard core is divided up into the triangular tips of each quarter—it is slightly lighter in color and harder to the touch. Cut this part away from each quarter, leaving only the soft, bright yellow flesh.
- Chop these pieces per your recipe or preference.
That’s it! I usually stick half of my fresh pineapple in the fridge and the other half in the freezer to use in smoothies or as a snack on a hot day. The flavor becomes noticeably brighter when it’s nice and cold. You can also blend it up with some cucumber to make a tasty agua fresca, or use it in fruits salads or baked goods.
Need a little more direction? Save a cup of your chopped fruit to use in our Tropical Coconut Flour Mini-Cupcakes, recipe coming next week.