First Time Fermenting? Try Tepache
Tepache is a traditional Mexican drink of pineapple and water. A fermentable sugar and other flavor-enhances are usually added as well. The result is a fizzy, low-ABV probiotic drink that's both sweet and tangy. Served over ice, Tepache is refreshing regardless of the temperature outside.
I just recently started experimenting with Tepache, but if you're looking for an entry into the world of fermentation, this is about as quick and easy as it gets. No special equipment is needed except for a few pressure-rated flip top bottles. Initial fermentation takes just a few days, and the bottle carbonation just a day or two. You can go from whole pineapple to fizzy tepache in a week or less.
There are plenty of recipes online. I recommend starting with the basics and adjusting to your taste preferences as you go along. Here are my recommendations:
Start with a ripe, but not over-ripe pineapple. Organic if possible, but I've used non organic without issue. Give it a rinse, long enough to remove any loose debris but no more. We want the natural yeast that live on the pineapple rind. Break down the pineapple. Some people use all of the pineapple, including the edible flesh, but I just use the core (cut into a few pieces) and the rind.
Any clean water will do, but I recommend using purified water. Municipal water usually has chlorine and/or chloramine that can kill the natural yeast and well water can impart flavors of its own. I use water filtered by the reverse-osmosis system I installed.
Added sugar isn't required, especially if you're using the whole pineapple instead of eating the fruit. I use much less sugar than most of the recipes I've found, but you can adjust to taste. Piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) is traditionally used but any fermentable sugar will work. I've used both brown sugar and agave nectar. I preferred the brown sugar. A friend of mine recently found piloncillo and grabbed two cones of it for me, so I am looking forward to using that in the near future.
The possibilities for flavor adders are limited only by your imagination. Cinnamon sticks, clove, nutmeg, coriander and peppers are commonly suggested. I have not used any adjuncts in my Tepache so far, but plan to incorporate cinnamon into the next batch.
Clean your fermentation vessel. I use 3L glass jars because glass is easy to clean and harmful bacteria can't hide in scratches as it could with plastic. I like to add a cup or two of warm water to help dissolve the sugar. Then add the pineapple and flavor enhancers if you're using any. Top the vessel up, making sure the pineapple is submerged (I leave space for a plastic bag filled with purified water to push everything down below the surface). Cover the jar with something breathable that will keep bugs out. Cheesecloth or a clean towel work well.
Leave the vessel out at room temperature and within a day or so you should notice some bubbles and foam starting to build. Fermentation has begun! Let the yeast do their thing for 2-3 days (the longer it ferments, the tangier it will be). If you let it go too long you can end up with a pineapple vinegar. You can let it go longer as you get a feel for it, but 2-3 days of fermentation is plenty to start with.
To bottle, remove the solids and strain the liquid to remove tinier bits. Fill clean, pressure-rated bottles (do not use decorative flip top bottles) leaving some head space, then close them up and leave them out at room temperature for a day. After this, pop one open to see how the carbonation is coming along. If the bottle "pops" it's ready - throw them in the fridge to "cold crash" the fermentation. If not, give them another day or so before crashing. There is plenty of fermentable sugar left and yeast that are happy to eat it, so do not let the bottles over carbonate - they will explode. Ask me how I know.
Keep the tepache refrigerated and enjoy over ice within a few days. This is a wild fermentation with many variables and no preservatives, so it can go bad if.
If you've been thinking about fermenting but weren't sure where to start, try tepache. It's a simple way to start fermenting and tasty to boot. Let us know how your tepache turns out and what you like to add to it!