Tepache. This fermented pineapple drink is so easy to make. Even someone like me, who had a fear of exploding fermented drinks (looking at you, kombucha), went ahead and made it without any untoward results. And I got rewarded with a lightly sweet and fizzy pineapple brew.
The alcoholic content of tepache is quite low. It ranges from 1% to 2% depending on its fermentation duration, the temperature, and the sugar (popular local light beers have around 5% alcohol content). What it does have are yeasts with recognized probiotic potential and antioxidant properties.
Made from pineapple peels
So where does tepache come from? Tepache de Piña is a Mexican fermented drink made from pineapple peels. My sister Mabi recommended I make it after I purchased a fresh organic pineapple. Since you use the pineapple peel to make tepache, best to buy an organic pineapple. (Pineapples are one of the most heavily sprayed crop, the chemicals used being “dangerous for both the environment and human health.”)
The yeast on the pineapple rind starts off the fermentation party that will happen. Then you have to feed the yeast—and what do they love? Sugar. Traditionally, you use pilocillo (unrefined cane sugar typically used in Latin America). However, you can also use brown sugar, which we did for this batch of tepache and the previous ones we made. It’s also typical to add cinnamon and cloves. I’ve put mangoes for an earlier batch and it worked really well. It was like a pineapple-mango soda, not as sour as kombucha, but a little boozy like light beer.
Tips for making tepache
- Your kitchen’s temperature will dictate how fast your tepache will ferment (warmer temps, faster fermentation). The first time I made tepache in March, it was bubbling so much by the first day, but I kept tasting it and only liked the yeasty (boozy), sweet and tangy flavor on the third day. When I made it the second time in May, my kitchen was likely warmer, because by the second day, the booziness and cider-like taste were more pronounced.
- Always taste your tepache to see if it’s ready, using a clean spoon every time. You will be able to tell whether it’s fermenting properly or not by the smell.
- Don’t wash or submerge the pineapple in hot water. This will kill the yeast. Ripe pineapples are also best for making tepache.
- Don’t use metal or plastic containers to brew. Best to use a ferment-grade glass container or ceramic pitcher when you’re fermenting or making tepache.
- A second fermentation? While usually done for kombucha to flavor the brew and make it carbonated, for tepache it’s not. If you add other fruits to it like mangoes or oranges during (the first) fermentation you already get additional flavor (and sugar) from those fruits. It can also become carbonated based on my experience with tepache.
- 1 ripe fresh pineapple
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves (optional)
1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the crown and base of the pineapple. Rinse it well and slice the peel off. Cut the fruit into chunks or slices and set aside in the refrigerator to use in another recipe or eat later on. Set aside the core along with the peel.
2. In a clean large glass (or ceramic) jar big enough to accommodate more than 8 cups of water, combine the sugar and water. Stir it well to dissolve the sugar.
3. Dissolve the sugar the add the pineapple peels and the core. You can also add the cinnamon stick and the cloves at this point. Mix briefly.
4. Make sure the pineapple is submerged in the liquid to prevent molds. You can weigh it down using a glass, a fermentation weight, or even the sliced off base of the pineapple.
5. Cover the container with a clean kitchen towel or two layers of paper towels and secure it with a rubber band. It will allow air into the mixture but protect it from wandering fruit flies. Let it ferment for 1 to 3 days.
6. Once you already like the taste of your tepache and when there are loads of small frothy bubbles at the top, you got yourself a tepache! Strain it into a clean bottle and discard peels and other solids.
7. Refrigerate and drink the tepache as it is (or add more sugar and water before serving). I usually just have it with some ice but you can also use it as a base for some refreshing cocktails.
The refrigerated tepache should keep for a week before it starts tasting more and more like vinegar. (If you want to add more carbonation you can bottle and ferment it a second time. Make sure to leave two inches free at top of the bottle and you’re using bottles made for fermentation as this is the part where it can explode. Ferment for 1 to 3 days but burp and check the carbonation after 24 hours.)
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