The elixir of life is said to contain drops of pure gold. One of the alchemists' tasks was to discover a process to extract an elixir of immortality from something ordinary. I believe that I hold this elixir in my possession. I did not glean it from an ancient text, but from the streets of Tijuana and the internet.
This elixir is tepache.
Brewing tepache is so simple and easy, and will forever astound you with its riches.
I haven’t thought about tepache in a long time. I remember seeing tepache vendors near the collective taxi stands in Tijuana. They sold sticky plastic bags filled with tepache to be sipped with a straw. Now tepache is appearing on bar menus across the country. Here in Portland Reverend Nat’s Cider started bottling a mildly spicy tepache. They produce a limited amount of tepache per year. When I volunteered at the Portland Fruit Beer Festival earlier this summer, I was lucky to land the job of pouring Reverend Nat’s tepache. This was one of the busiest lines at the fest. No wonder, tepache is so tasty and refreshing.
What I love best about this process is the alchemy of rinds creating liquid gold. Tepache is made with the rinds of pineapple! Something so tasty from something we normally toss into the compost? Count me in. Do what you want with the fruit of the pineapple and save those rinds for tepache. The rinds have wild yeast on them. The only other requirements are: Filtered water, sugar, and a jar. I use tap water, but the chlorine in tap water may inhibit the growth of yeast., so keep that in mind. You can add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or dried chiles.
The resulting beverage is brimming with probiotics and is mildly alcoholic, ranging from 1 - 5% ABV.
Ingredients and Materials:
- The rind from one pineapple
- Spices: One cinnamon stick (canela, or Mexican soft cinnamon is best), 6 allspice berries, or 4 whole cloves
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar, depending on the size of the pineapple (I like a blend of muscovado and cane sugar, but if you can find piloncillo, use that). Note: I originally posted a larger amount of sugar, but after experimenting some more, I prefer it with less sugar.
- 2 quarts of water (filtered is best, so the yeast from the pineapple rind is not inhibited)
- one half gallon mason jar, clean
The yeast for fermentation is on the rind, so you don't want to scrub it clean, just rinse it off. Cut up the rind so that it will fit it in the mason jar. Add the spices (if desired), sugar, and water. Some recipes suggest making a syrup with the sugar, water, and spices first - by heating them in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup cool completely before adding it to the pineapple rinds. I just added the sugar and water. I didn’t even stir the mixture, and by day two all of the sugar was dissolved. Either method will work. Cover the brew with a metal ring and cloth, or a lid to keep the ants out.
Let the brew sit out for 24 to 48 hours. If the room is cool, it may take up to a week to get to the bubbling stage. After a day of fermenting, monitor it very closely. It should smell like deep, rich pineapple. If it smells like ham or bologna, discard - it is full of bad microbes. Once the tepache starts to bubble, keep tasting until it tastes like fruity, bubbly, zesty pineapple. It should be bubbly, but not smell or taste like vinegar. If necessary, put it in the fridge to slow down fermentation because it can quickly turn to vinegar. If it does turn to vinegar, don't fret, because you just made pineapple vinegar, and your salads will be tasty.
When it is ready, strain the tepache into a bottle or another mason jar. I like to let it sit in the fridge for another day to chill and improve the flavor.
Don’t toss the rinds! You can try to get a second batch of tepache by repeating the process with the same rinds. I didn’t have success extracting a second batch, but I will try again with my next pineapple.
Some folks add a can of beer after the first day of fermentation to speed up the process and add flavor. Try adding a couple pieces of charred or grilled pineapple. Or a chipotle or ancho chile.
My favorite way to enjoy tepache is on ice. It is a low alcohol soda, much like kombucha, but not sour. It is the perfect thing to drink when it is unbearably hot. You can also add a a few leaves of fresh basil or pineapple sage to your glass. Delicious!
Mix with beer or hard cider. The suggested ratio is usually 2/3rds tepache to 1/3rd beer, but I like to reverse the ratio. Try mixing with Mexican lager, IPA, wit, saison, or hefeweizen.
Mix with cocktails. So far I have tried tepache with rum, tequila, and mezcal, all with great success. The earthy and effervescent pineapple brew plays nicely in a cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails, here is one made with tepache:
Serket is the goddess of healing venomous stings in Egyptian mythology. Basil is said to attract scorpions, and, if consumed, to ease the pain of their sting. This cup is an offering to Serket. I hope she likes tequila.
Makes two drinks
4 basil leaves (I recommend opal or aromatto basil, if you have them)
1.5 ounces lime juice
1.5 ounces simple syrup (I used muscovado sugar syrup)
3 ounces tequila
.5 - 1 ounce Del Maguey Vida mezcal
4 - 5 ounces tepache
In a cocktail shaker or mason jar, muddle the basil leaves with the lime and simple syrup. Add the tequila, mezcal, and some ice. Shake well. Add the tepache and stir well (shaking tepache is not a good idea - it really bubbles over). Strain and serve on the rocks. I garnished ours with a plump Chester blackberry.