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blog-pineapple blizzard

When it comes to dessert, the world can be pretty much divided into chocolate people and fruit people. I myself am squarely in the latter camp, which is why the simple, refreshing dessert known as Pineapple Blizzard is a lifesaver this time of year. The first precious local strawberries—let alone the heavy, ripe peaches and other fruits of summer—seem very far away, and by now I’m bored to death with apple or pear crisps or crumbles. It’s even difficult to get excited about pie.

Pineapple is most famously used, of course, in an upside-down cake—one of America’s favorite homey desserts since the early 1900s, with the advent of pineapple canneries. But the beauty of Pineapple Blizzard is that it’s nothing more than the fresh fruit, sugar to taste, and egg whites whomped up in a food processor and frozen. Nothing comes between you and pineapple’s sweet-tart acidity, in other words. It’s bracing and beguiling, all at the same time, with a texture that becomes almost mousselike when it begins to soften. Even the most polite dinner guests scrape their bowls clean and wonder aloud if there is more.

The dessert was created by the late Abby Mandel Meyer, founder of the Green City Market, in Chicago, longtime Tribune columnist (“The Weekend Cook”), and one of America’s great proponents of home cooking. In the 1970s, she saw the potential in a brand-new appliance called the Cuisinart food processor and parleyed her expertise into a series of Cuisinart cookbooks and cooking demos.

I first came across the recipe for Pineapple Blizzard in The Supper Book, by Marion Cunningham, another splendid, greatly missed advocate for the family table, whose writing was as honest and unpretentious as the food she championed. “Abby Mandel, an exceptional cook and cookbook author, first made this dessert for me,” she explained in the headnote. “I call it a ‘blizzard’ because it is icy and it drifts up the sides of the food processor like wind-blown snow. It is creamy without cream and it keeps its soft frozen texture in the freezer.” It’s also at its most delicious when made a few days ahead. What is not to love?

We all tend to associate pineapple with Hawaii in our minds, but the fruit’s agricultural history there didn’t begin until the late 19th century, with the crop development trials of English entrepreneur John Kidwell. Today, most of the fresh pineapple in the United States comes from Costa Rica; it’s surpassed coffee to become that country’s number two export crop (bananas are number one).  In February 2010, Dole started offering Fair Trade organic pineapples from Costa Rica to their U.S. market.

Even though it’s available year-round, pineapple is at its best from March through June. For maximum sweetness, the fruit must be picked at the peak of ripeness because it’s nonclimacteric, meaning it can’t continue to ripen, thus grow sweeter, after harvest. When shopping, know that a larger pineapple isn’t necessarily riper or more flavorful than a smaller one, but there will be a greater proportion of edible fruit to thick, bristly outer shell. The leaves in the crown should look fresh. The fruit should smell fragrant, but not like it has started to ferment. The body should feel firm and heavy for its size.

One thing that is not an indicator of ripeness, however, is the color of a pineapple’s shell: A green-skinned one can be just as ripe, sweet, and juicy as a golden-skinned one. In fact, all certified-organic pineapples are sold green (and carefully labeled “ready to eat”), since the use of ripening agents, which give most conventional pineapples their yellow shell color, are prohibited. When you get your prize home, don’t be tempted to style a tutti-frutti centerpiece around it à la Carmen Miranda, or the pineapple will start to rot. Instead, store it in your refrigerator’s damp, dark vegetable drawer.

Everyone has a favorite method for freeing a pineapple from its shell and cutting it into pieces, but I like that used by a “South Seas Island Boy” on the Instructables website. I first saw and used the technique in South India some years ago, and once you acquire a little experience (a boning or other flexible knife is helpful), you can break down a pineapple in no time flat.

As far as the egg whites go, they aren’t cooked in the below recipe. These days, we’re all concerned about food safety issues, and I substituted pasteurized egg whites (found in the supermarket refrigerated egg and dairy aisle) without thinking twice. I would imagine you could also use the whites from pasteurized whole eggs, such as Safest Choice brand.

In theory, pineapple blizzard lasts for two weeks in the freezer, but I’ve never managed to keep it around for that long.

Pineapple Blizzard

From The Supper Book, by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)

4 cups fresh pineapple, cut into approximately 1-inch cubes

½ cup to ¾ cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the pineapple

2 egg whites or 4 tablespoons pasteurized liquid egg whites (such as Eggology or Organic Valley brand)

Spread the pineapple cubes on a jelly-roll pan (I line it with parchment paper first) and put in the freezer for 8 hours. The cubes must be rock hard.

Put the cubes in the food processor and process until drifts of iced fruit are on the sides of the container (ignore the racket these little rocks make). This takes about 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula, add some of the sugar, about ½ cup, and then add the egg whites. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides once of twice, until the mass begins to flow easily in the processor container. Process for 2 or 3 minutes, taste, and add more sugar if needed. Continue to process another 2 minutes, or as long as it takes for the mixture to become pale, light, and smooth. You will have the most creamy, fluffy pineapple dessert, and it will be difficult to believe it only has sugar and egg white in it.

Cover well and put into the freezer. This keeps for a week or two, but is at its best the first 3 or 4 days after making.

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