Sunday, October 29th, 2017...4:46 pm

Pen Pineapple Apple Pen

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You know what I love? I love being wrong. I know that sounds super weird, because — let’s be honest — no one likes finding out that their life has been a LIE, but it’s really not all bad. The fun thing about being wrong is that it means you’ve learned something, and as a die hard information junkie, the benefit of having gained new knowledge almost always outweighs whatever negativity (embarrassment, mostly, I guess?) surrounds finding out you were wrong about something. And I’m delighted to admit that I was wrong about this: I do not hate dried fruit! I actually like dried fruit*! (I only dislike most store bought dried fruit.)

Pretty much all my life, I’ve thought that dried fruit was just some cruel joke being played on us, as inhabitants of a modern day and age where refrigeration is common, and it’s easy to get fresh produce that’s flown from the other side of the globe, even if it’s not in season where you live. (Whether that’s a good idea – for you, for the fruit, or for the environment – is an entirely different discussion, but the fact remains that you can.) I love fruit, and I love it so much in its fresh and unadulterated form, that every single time I’ve tried any type of dried fruit, it only ever made me wish I had the ‘real’ thing.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine decided to sell her dehydrator. It’s an Excalibur, which is pretty much the gold standard for dehydrators, and was the model I’d been eyeing, only I’d found it hard to justify dedicating that amount of money and physical space to yet another piece of kit which I might not even use that often. But this was way too good of a deal to pass up on, and I’m so glad that I didn’t, because, you guys, homemade dehydrated fruit is such a delight. Dehydrated apple slices aren’t vaguely apple-scented pieces of leathery cardboard, dehydrated banana is chewy and crisp and tastes of actual banana, and then there’s dehydrated pineapple. Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits, when eaten fresh, and is actually one of the few types of fruit that I enjoy cooked as well (grilled or roasted pineapple is so amazingly different and yet similar to the fresh version), and I really didn’t think it would be possible to find yet another form of pineapple that I’d enjoy as much, much less a dried version.

But I was having a chat with a close friend who loves homemade dried fruit and discussing how I should season my pineapple, and she suggested sprinkling it with salt and chilli flakes. Which, in a word: genius. Because I’m a slightly ridiculous human being who has a slightly ridiculous variety of varieties of chilli flakes in my spice drawer, I ended up running some tests and doing different batches – pineapple dehydrated 1. plain, 2. with salt, 3. with salt and aleppo, 4. with salt and cayenne, and 5. with salt and chipotle. And you know what? The best science experiments are the ones where there are really no wrong answers, like with this one, but as a die-hard spice fiend, the palate-searing chipotle was the clear winner for me. It’s smoky, it’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s tangy; that hint of salt helps to heighten and brighten all of the flavours, and it’s sunshine in a snack. The only real problem with it is that I’m (still) in a cut right now, and oh my word it is so difficult to only eat a reasonable amount of these things!

*Note: my newfound love for homemade dried fruit, however, does not extend to raisins. Raisins are the physical manifestation of sadness in the form of desiccated celestial bodies and aside from in hot cross buns (which, really, wouldn’t be hot cross buns without raisins), THEY HAVE NO PLACE IN CIVILISED SOCIETY.

PS: If you’re a fan of dehydrating fruit at home, what’s your favourite fruit to try? I’ve done apple, pineapple and banana so far, and I’m planning to try out some citrus too (which I think would make for excellent infusions), as well as DRIED MANGO (the only store bought dried fruit that I’ve ever liked, so I imagine it’s only going to be even more bomb homemade!), and dried cranberries. What’s am I missing? Hit me up!

Spicy Dehydrated Pineapple

So what’s about to follow is much less of a recipe and more of a general method and guideline, because…well, pineapples don’t come in the same size or sweetness or acidity levels, different people have different tolerances to capsaicin, and because seriously there are 3 whole ingredients and it really depends on you.

1 medium, ripe pineapple
fine sea salt
chipotle or cayenne pepper

Remove the crown of the pineapple, peel and remove the eyes. My preferred method of this is to cut off the top and bottom (so you get a stable, flat edge), to carefully slice downwards to remove the skin, and then to slice out diagonal channels to remove the eyes. It’s a little more wasteful than removing each eye individually, but it’s so much faster, and I like the spiral effect it has. Depending on the sizes of finished pieces you want, you can either: lie the pineapple down and slice it into rings (and then use a small round cutter to remove the core), or halve or quarter the pineapple lengthwise, remove the cores, and then slice it. For dehydrating, I like roughly 2-3mm thick slices.

Lay the pineapple slices out on your dehydrator shelves, and evenly sprinkle with fine sea salt. I like to do this from a height so there’s a nice but very light and even coating, then sprinkle each piece with a small amount of chilli powder/flakes of your choice. Both chipotle and cayenne are delicious (as was aleppo, though I found the spice level of that a bit too low for me, so it’d be a great choice for someone who loves the fruitiness and fragrance of chilli, but doesn’t enjoy the heat as much), and bear in mind that chipotle pepper is pretty freaking spicy, so unless you know that you can tolerate that much spice, I’d err on the side of under-spicing it.

As for the dehydration, apparently running your dehydrator at about 38ºC or 100ºF will help to preserve some enzymatic activity in the fruit. I was impatient and didn’t want to wait the 18-24 hours that would have taken, and I’m also not entire sure what preserving enzymatic activity does for me, so I didn’t bother. I’ve done a few batches now all at 57ºC/135ºF for 8-12 hours (I like it around the 9-10 hour mark where it’s still pliable and chewy), flipping the pieces and positioning of the trays once or twice mid-way through. If you only have an oven, you could probably replicate it quite easily – I would just set your oven on fan-assisted to the lowest possible temperature (likely in the 90-100ºC region), crack the door of your oven open with a wooden spoon (to increase circulation and drop the temperature a little more), and start checking it around the 4-5 hour mark.

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