With Chinese New Year approaching, the house is being filled with more snacks and delicious goodies.
Last year, I didn’t have time to make my own pineapple paste. This year, I wanted to do it because while I liked my pineapple tarts, I always felt that it could be better. Homemade pineapple jam is the answer.
While one can easily find ready-made pineapple paste, I always felt that these paste lacked pineapple flavour and were simply sweetened with too much sugar and glucose.
When you have no time, commercial pineapple paste is really so convenient and easy to use. I suppose they really aren’t that bad.
Cooking your own pineapple jam is not hard at all, just tedious and time-consuming. It is no rocket science. But you have to be prepared to stand by a warm stove for close to two hours.
I find it best to cook it on a rainy, cooling day and have some music that you can sing along to. It can be therapeutic while the smell of the pineapple and warm spices can be pretty intoxicating.
I’ve included my recipe and some tips on making pineapple jam/paste below. If you are stuck at home on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you might want to give it a go. I do think it is worth the time.
I was eating my pineapple jam (the remains on the pot) – it is so good. I simple love it – I love that you can eat the strands of the grated pineapple; I love that I can taste the hints of warm spices that complements the pineapples; I love that you can taste the pineapple fruit.
Recipe: Homemade pineapple jam/paste
Makes about 1kg of pineapple jam
This jam is best for making pineapple tarts. It’s not meant for spreading onto toast as this recipe yields a dry and sticky texture jam. For my pineapple tarts recipe, please go to this link.
5 large pineapples (I use 2 ripe pineapples, and 3 half-riped pineapples)
juice from 1 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
800g granulated sugar (or to taste)
1. Remove the skin and “eyes” of the pineapple. Cut the pineapple into quarters, lengthwise.
2. Grate the pineapple using a box grater (I found it best to use the stamped hole side, the one with the largest holes) into a large bowl (preferably in a non-reactive bowl like glass, ceramic or plastic). You may choose to wear plastic gloves to protect your hands from the acidity of the pineapples. Discard the core of the pineapples; it is too tough to break down even after cooking, unless you like that texture in your pineapple paste.
3. Drain the grated pineapples with a sieve and place the grated pineapples into a large surface area pot. Save the pineapple juice for later. Add 100g of the sugar, lemon juice and the whole spices in the pot at this point. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon.
4. Bring the pot to a boil at medium-high heat. Once it start to boil, lower the heat to medium and stir it occasionally, be sure not to allow it to burn.
5. Start adding the pineapple juice to the pot a ladle at a time until all the juice has been boiled away.
6. The juice will start to evaporate and dry out. The mixture should start to look dry and its colour should be darker by now. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking until the mixture looks very dry and coats the wooden spoon without any moisture. Add in the rest of the sugar to taste towards the end of cooking.
8. It is important to stir the mixture about every 5 minutes especially at the end of the cooking as it get burnt easily.
9. Take the pot off the heat and allow the jam to cool completely once it looks dry and sticky. The colour would also be an indication of its doneness. The cooking should take about 1.5-2 hours, depending on the amount you make and the surface of the pot you use.
10. Take note that the jam will continue to thicken after it is cooled so it is best not to overcook the mixture. It is better to undercook it for you can always put it back on the heat if it is still not at the right consistency.
11. After the pineapple jam is cooled, discard the spices, cling wrap it and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a 3-4 weeks.
*Tips for making pineapple jam:
*Always grate your pineapples even though it seems a lot easier to just blend them. Grating the pineapples will give you the best texture with nice strands and sinews of the pineapple after it is cooked.
*You can boil the grated pineapples with the juice all at once but this method will take a much longer time. Adding the juice a little at a time will speed up the cooking process.
*The spices lend warmth and aroma to the pineapple jam/paste. It is your personal preference so add them in any variation or quantity. I wouldn’t add too much of it though.
*It is best to add most of the sugar at the end of the cooking – start with a little, then sweeten it to taste when the pineapple mixture has almost dried up. Otherwise, the sugar will start to caramelise with the pineapple jam and will turn it to a very dark brown.
*Try to use a pot that conducts heat evenly and use one with a large surface area. This will speed up the cooking process.
*If you are making open-faced pineapple tarts, the pineapple jam can be slightly more moist as it will continue to dry out when baked.
*For enclosed pineapple tarts, the pineapple jam needs to be completely dry and sticky so it can be rolled into balls and enclosed with the pastry.
To remedy pineapple jam:
*If overcooked (until it is too hard and dry)…
The best way (I’ve learnt it the hard way) is to start preparing a new batch of grated pineapple and juice (you do not need a lot). Start cooking this new batch of pineapple jam and begin to add in broken down parts of your overcooked jam. The overcooked jam will start to soften when heated and will combine with your new batch of jam. Cook this until moisture has evaporated and until jam is at your preferred consistency.