In my home, we kicked up our composting efforts over the past few years. We got kitchen bins, a worm farm (my kids are obsessed), and a tumbler for our fruit scraps. But you don’t need all this equipment to make good use of your fruit scraps. In fact, if you’ve got some leftover pineapple skins, you can turn them into tepache, a fizzy brew local to Mexico.
Turn Pineapple Peels Into Tepache
Originally made with corn, tepache dates to the pre-Columbian era, but has since evolved into a version with pineapple.
Tepache is a fermented drink with a low alcohol content (2% to 3%), similar in style to a kombucha; in fact, I’d say it’s even easier to make. The added sugar combined with the bacteria and wild yeast cultures on the pineapple skin create a light carbonation within 2 to 5 days. And, despite the cup of added sugar, it’s not a super sweet drink—the sugar is simply fuel for the bacteria and yeast to make the carbonation.
Enjoy tepache as a refreshing drink over ice or mix it with lime juice and tequila or rum.
The Sweetener: Piloncillo
A traditional tepache calls for piloncillo or panela, which is evaporated sugar cane juice local to Mexico and Central America. It tastes like brown sugar but it’s unrefined and it doesn’t contain molasses, as brown sugar does.
Piloncillo comes in the shape of a cone, but it can also be found by the bag. Check your local Mexican market or an online retailer, or use light or dark brown sugar—dark brown sugar will have a more pronounced molasses flavor.
The riper the pineapple, the more natural sugars it will have. A ripe pineapple will make a more flavorful drink—you’ll enjoy eating it more too!
How to Tell When the Tepache Is Ready
Tepache is a living beverage, and every batch will taste slightly different. The temperature in your kitchen, the microorganisms on the pineapple, and the sugar you use all contribute to a slightly different batch every time.
Watch for visual cues and smells, as the timing will be different from batch to batch.
- Within the first 24 to 48 hours: Small bubbles around the top edge, where the liquid meets the container, are the first sign of fermentation. I highly recommend a glass container so that you can see it from the outside.
- After 24 to 48 hours: You should start to see more bubbles. They will be small, but plentiful. At this point you can start to taste it. There isn’t a “standard” taste, as some batches will taste sweeter, funkier, or more sour than others. It really will come down to preference. To taste, stir the mixture gently but thoroughly, then use a tablespoon or a straw to extract the liquid. Just no double dipping!
- After 48 hours and up to one week: If you like the taste, strain the tepache. At this point, I’ve found the aroma similar to a light, fruity beer with some yeasty notes like fresh bread. It’s slightly sweet with a nice sour finish—it really does remind me of pineapple beer!
No bubbles after at least 3 days? Check out my tips and tricks below to help the fermentation along.
Fermentation: Tips and Tricks
Tepache is one of the easiest fermented beverages to make at home. I hope these tips and tricks help make each new batch your best.
- If available, use an organic pineapple. Organic pineapples are less likely to be treated with pesticides and will contain more natural microorganisms on the outside—and you’ll be drinking that fermented skin! If organic is not available to you, thoroughly wash and scrub the outside of the pineapple and expect that fermentation may be slower for you.
- Fermentation likes it warm-ish! The ideal temperature is between 70°F and 80°F.
- Stick to the amount of sugar recommended in the recipe. Too much sugar will slow fermentation, not speed it up. Add too little, and there won’t be enough food for the microorganisms to produce carbonation.
- Still not fermenting after 48 hours? Help your batch along by adding 1/4 teaspoon of baker’s yeast. Sprinkle it in and stir well.
- Add beer as another option to speed up fermentation. It will also increase the alcohol level. Add 1 cup of lager along with the cooled syrup.
- White foam may form on the top. It’s harmless. Gently scoop it out with a spoon. If mold starts to form on the fruit, scoop out the fruit and toss it. To avoid this problem, stir the fruit down into the liquid once or twice a day while it ferments so that everything is fully submerged.
- Do not fully seal the container while the tepache ferments. I recommend lightly covering it with cheesecloth. Tepache relies on aerobic fermentation, which means it needs oxygen to ferment.
Fun Variations to Try
- To make a spicy version, add 1 hot chili pepper (any kind) cut lengthwise and deseeded.
- Add a 2-inch knob of ginger cut into 1/2-inch rounds.
- While cinnamon is commonly added to tepache, feel free to omit it.
Fan of Pineapple Drinks?
1 cup piloncillo or light or dark brown sugar
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
2 quarts filtered water, divided
1 large organic pineapple
Pineapple slices, for garnish (optional)
Make the syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine the piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves, and 1 cup water. Set it over high heat and bring it to just under a boil—large bubbles should start to form around the edges. Immediately reduce the heat to low, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Wash the pineapple:
Thoroughly wash the outside of your pineapple with running water making sure to remove all the dirt and debris.
Cut the pineapple:
Place the pineapple on a large cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the crown- and root-end off and discard them.
Stand the pineapple upright on its flat base so that it doesn’t roll around. Starting from the top, slice off the skin, leaving about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of fruit attached. Cut the skin into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Place them into a nonreactive (glass, stainless steel, or ceramic, but not plastic) container that can hold at least 3 quarts.
With the pineapple still upright, cut off the edible part, working around the core. Cut the core into 1-inch chunks and place them in the container with the skin.
The rest of the pineapple is for you to enjoy!
Pour in the syrup and water:
Add the cooled syrup and the remaining almost 2 quarts filtered water. Stir to combine.
Cover the container:
Cover the container with a clean cheesecloth or tea towel. Use a rubber band to secure it. Place the container in a warm spot away from sunlight. The ideal temperature is between 70°F and 80°F.
If the spot is warm (over 85°F), check the tepache after 12 hours. Wait at least 24 hours if it’s cooler.
Small bubbles will begin to form around the top edges as it ferments. Use a slotted spoon to remove any white foam on top; it is harmless. More bubbles will form over time, and the mixture will smell a little sour, like beer.
You can taste it at this point with a spoon or a straw—stick it into the liquid and cover the top of the straw with a finger to trap the liquid in the straw. The ideal taste comes down to your preference—some batches will taste sweeter, funkier, or more sour than others.
At the ideal temperature, it takes about 2 days for the tepache to reach the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and light carbonation. If cooler, it can take up to 5 days.
Strain the tepache:
Set a nut bag or fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth over a large nonreactive bowl or jug. Strain the tepache into it. Let it sit for about 15 minutes to fully drain and discard the fruit.
To serve the tepache:
Serve the tepache over ice and garnish with a slice of pineapple.
Tepache can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Do not cover it tightly. It will continue to ferment even in the fridge, so if stored for any longer, it will turn into vinegar.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 25g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||2%|
|Total Sugars 24g|
|Vitamin C 10mg||49%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|