Tepache – funky pineapples

As I’m someone who seems to drink for a living, my house is full of booze. Combine that with enough laziness to not want to carry heavy things home from the supermarket, and I have a fridge that is bereft of soft drinks. With summer (intermittently) upon us, I need something that I can drink to stay hydrated, and for that, booze is not my friend. Time to make some Tepache.

Soft drinks are invariably full of sugar or sweeteners, whether they be fruit juice or Mr Cola’s fizzy brown sugar water, and as I avoid aspartame and reserve my empty calories almost exclusively for beer, I’ve been looking for an alternative. Step forward Brad Leone of Bon Appetit, and his YouTube series It’s Alive – occasional videos where he teaches us how to make fermented things while berating Vinnie the camera man. This episode caught my eye:

I heard about Tepache a while back, when the funkmeisters at Wild Beer brought out a pineapple beer called Tepache. It was rather good, so I started looking into the drink it was based on.

A Mexican staple, it seems to be a mainstay of street vendors and one of the classic by-product drinks: if you’ve eaten a load of pineapple, what do you do with the bits you don’t want to eat? The answer: ferment them. Obviously.

My recipe is based on Brad’s, with a couple of tweaks based on what I had in my cupboard, other things I read on the internet and my dislike of chilli in drinks.

Tepache: the recipe

300g pineapple bark (two small pineapples)
500g pineapple chunks (one small pineapples)
100g sugar
40g thinly sliced ginger
5 allspice berries
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1.5 litres water

I used two small pineapples, as they were £1 each in the supermarket. Trim them both, discarding the tops and bottoms, chop the fruit into rough chunks and put half in the fridge for breakfasts – I recommend pineapple, grapes, greek yoghurt and maple syrup. ‘Tis tasty.

Take a large Kilner jar (I ran mine through the dishwasher first in a vague attempt at sterilisation), and drop in all the pineapple bark and ginger, and 250g of the chunked pineapple. Get a large muddler or rolling pin and give the contents of the jar a bit of a bash to break them down a bit.

Dissolve your sugar in some of the water – I stuck in 200ml straight from the kettle. I used a mixture of black molasses sugar and golden sugar: the molasses sugar has a rich liquoricey taste and the golden sugar gives things the nice colour mentioned in the video. Once dissolved, pour it into the jar and do some more muddling.

Add in the final 250g of pineapple along with the spices and then more water, for a total of 1.5 litres.

Put the lid down, but don’t seal it. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere out of sunlight for a few days. Give it a stir from time to time, pushing all the bits beneath the surface of the liquid. If you want to see how much it’s fermenting, seal the lid for a few hours – when you pop it, you’ll see a load of bubbles. Hopefully…

Tepache Jar
Bubbly…

Once it’s ready, strain the liquid and fill it into clean bottles – I dishwashered mine then ran hot water into them for a few minutes, again to give at least the illusion of sterilisation. Leave them on the side for a few days to carbonate.

I made, as Brad does in the video, a second runnings from my bark and bits. Just stick everything solid back in the jar, cover with water again – I put in a bit over a litre, Leave it for a few more days, then strain and bottle again.

You could do a third runnings, but I suspect you wouldn’t get much more out of the pineapple. Or you could pick out and eat all the pineapple – it’s sour and fizzy from the fermentation but still has a hint of sweetness. I recommend sticking yoghurt and maple syrup all over it, but that’s my solution for everything.

Due to having a eaten lots of pineapple over the week, instead I used MAO’s Pineapple Chutney recipe to make funky chutney. I cooked mine too long and it turned into a thick jam, but was still excellent in a pork sandwich the next day. In related news, be careful how much chilli you put in…

Tepache: the tasting

I left my first runnings to ferment for five days, which I think was a day or so too long – it’s been hot here in London and it was quite active. The final liquid is intense enough that I’ve been diluting half-half with still or sparkling water, but it has a hint of vinegar that suggests I left it just a little too long. Fortunately, I like the acetic tinge. I did a little bit of tasting as it went along, but forgot for the last couple of days – next time: more tasting and a little less time.

Tepache First Runnings

Nose: Spicy candied ginger, fermented sourness (warm lemons, straw and a touch of silage) and concentrated pineapple (like a jelly without the sweetness).
Palate: Delicately fizzy and intense. Pineapple, candied ginger and cider vinegar sit up front, with a touch of spice following behind. As the sweetness fades, more dirty funk comes through.
Finish: Candied ginger, concentrated pineapple and soft spice. The pineapple hangs around.

The second runnings were a pleasant surprise. The intensity was reduced, but it’s still got a punch and is great with a splash of water or neat over ice. The funkiness and fruit also came together quite differently to the first run:

Tepache Second Runnings

Nose: Watery pineapple with very little sweetness. Pineapple bark and a hint of earthiness.
Palate: Almost citrus acidity with a touch of cider vinegar, and hints of pickled ginger and allspice. Gentle sour pineapple runs underneath everything – the essence of pineapple without its usual sweetness.
Finish: Ginger and fermented funkiness – a hint of mulchy straw and hay.

Tepache: The what to do with it

I kept a bottle of the first runnings in the fridge at work, and it kept me going in a warm office much better than coffee or my Irn Bru stash have. I’ve also been drinking it for breakfast with soda water, agua fresca style.

The second runnings are perfect on their own, although didn’t pick up much carbonation. Served in a tall glass over ice, it’s a perfect afternoon drink in the sun.

Despite specifically making Tepache to act as a substitute for alcoholic beverages, I can happily attest that it works well with rum – half and half first runnings with some FourSquare XO, stirred over ice and served over a big ice cube. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t try these things for you.

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