For the introductory bebida on this blog, I decided to make tepache. Tepache (teh-PAH-che) is a popular fermented beverage in Mexico using raw brown sugar (piloncillo), pineapple rinds and spices. Tepache existed in pre-Columbian times, and only became more popular upon the arrival of the Spanish. This blog post suggests that the Spanish brewed tepache as a replacement for their beloved apple cider, using New World ingredients they had available to them upon arrival; cane sugar and pineapple. I can imagine they also loved it due to the fact that it is mildly alcoholic; approximately 3-5% ABV, by my guess. It also has the added bonus of being exceedingly easy to make, and delicious to boot.
Tepache is a popular drink, made in the home or served on the street. Often it is served over ice in plastic cups, or en bolsa, plastic bags tied at the top around a straw.
Because of tepache’s popularity, there are countless recipes available online. Some call for the addition of beer part way, presumably to speed fermentation. Some call for varying amounts of sugar (anywhere between 0 and 700g per liter). I waded through a number of recipes, and settled on one that seemed to work for me, sourced in part from LorenaLara144’s YouTube recipe (Spanish).
- the skin from one pineapple (with a little meat, enough to get the eyes)
- 16oz piloncillo (sub. dark brown sugar, if you’d like)
- 4 quarts of water
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional. Mexican canela preferred, I used the normal stuff)
- 3-5 whole cloves (optional)
- 3-5 whole allspice berries (optional)
- Dissolve sugar in 4 quarts of water. If using Mexican piloncillo cones, dissolve over heat, and cool to <100º F. If using brown sugar, stir until fully dissolved.
- Rinse and/or gently scrub pineapple in mildly warm water to remove any caked dirt or debris. The yeast that does the fermentation in this recipe live on the skin of the pineapple, and you don’t want to kill or remove it. (NOTE: If you are (rightfully) concerned about pesticides, I read here that Mexican pineapples use very little pesticides during cultivation, vs. their Hawaiian counterparts)
- Cut the skin from the pineapple, making sure to include a bit of the flesh (flavor and sugar). Cutting deep enough to remove the eyes leaves enough meat on the skin, and saves work when prepping pineapple flesh for eating. Add to corrosive-proof container (I used food-grade plastic. Glazed ceramic is traditional. Avoid metal.)
- Add cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice berries to container. Stir so everything is incorporated.
- Cover container with a towel and leave to ferment for 3-7 days. My first attempt required 6 days.
Several sources advised that you “don’t peek” until day 3. I failed, and peeked on day 2. The pineapple that was floating toward the top had developed a white fuzzy mold, which I was afraid would spread. I retrieved the effected pieces, cut the moldy bits off and returned them to the container. I then placed a bowl wide enough to submerge the pineapple below the surface. This prevented any further mold from appearing, but a white sludge did appear to grow on the top. On day 4, I skimmed this off (if you’ve made fermented pickles, you are familiar with this process) before reading that this is unnecessary. The white bacteria is to be expected and you should not be alarmed.
I peeked on day 5 to see how the progress was going, and found a VERY vigorous fermentation. When I poked my nose in, this is what I found.
Once the fermentation had slowed on day 6, the white sludge was gone, and what remained was a foam similar to the yeasty foam that gathers at the surface of fermented apple cider. I poured the tepache through a funnel into a gallon milk jug, taking care to remove the spices and pineapple rind, and not collecting the must that had settled at the bottom, and placed the jug in the refrigerator.
Serve the tepache over ice, with a squeeze of lime, and a dash of chile powder if you’d like. Traditionally a pinch of baking soda is sprinkled over the ice before adding the lemon and tepache to introduce some carbonation.
NOTE: If you would like to have pineapple vinegar, simply leave this to ferment for an additional week, covered with a towel at room temperature. Once fermentation has completed, simply place the vinegar in a bottle and use in recipes that call for any flavorful vinegar (ie. sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar).