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02/28/2012 03:16 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Cut Fresh Pineapple (And Make The Most Of It)

Pineapples are some of the most interesting-looking fruits in the market, but even so, many of us are still too afraid to purchase them. We think to ourselves, "Yes, it's beautiful, but how the heck do I open one up?" And you're paying by weight, but don't you throw out most of the skin and rind? Well, it is much easier to just open a can, but just think of what you're missing: the taste and the aroma of one of the most unique fruits. Just think Hawaii! And as for those pesky leftover pineapple skins, we've got some ideas for you below.

We all know that the flavor of a fresh pineapple compared to canned is infinitely better -- there's a very noticeable difference in taste. Not only does a fresh pineapple taste fresh, but it's also tangier, sweeter and infinitely more tropical than canned, which often tastes more like the aluminum can than the actual fruit.

With just a little bit of effort you can easily enjoy a fresh pineapple at home. And you don't need any fancy knife skills to do so -- cleaning and preparing it is easy (just watch the video below if you don't believe us).

How To Choose Fresh Pineapples

When buying a fresh pineapple, look for ones that are ripe or in the process of ripening -- a ripe pineapple blushes yellow and smells fruity. Stay away from ones that are spongey or moldy on the bottom, or brown and discolored. A good test for ripeness is to tug on the center leaf in the crown -- if it comes out easily, it's ripe.

How To Clean And Prep Pineapples

When you're ready to enjoy a pineapple, arm yourself with a serrated knife and a sturdy cutting board. Cut off the leafy top and trim off the bottom inch of the pineapple. Stand the fruit up, using either the cut bottom or top as a base, and slice off the skin in strips. Remove any eyes (the brown prickly pines) with the point of a small paring knife. Cut the fruit lengthwise into quarters and remove the woody core by slicing along each quarter. Now you're ready to cut the quarters into thin strips or chunks.

If you want to create pineapple rings, you'll want to skip quartering the pineapple and instead cut the fruit into cross-sections. Use a cookie cutter or apple corer to punch out the core from each slice to create the ring (see the how-to video here).

Five Interesting Uses For Pineapples

Pineapple juice contains an enzyme called bromelain. It's great to use as marinades because it tenderizes proteins. It can also be used for body scrubs (don't discard the skins after peeling, use it to make a body scrub) and face masks. The only downside of bromelain is that it prevents gelatin from jelling, so you can't put fresh pineapple chunks in gelatin -- only cooked or canned works because heat kills the enzyme.

Don't toss that pineapple skin after you've peeled the fruit. Use them for cleaning wooden cutting boards. Just sprinkle some coarse salt on your board and rub with the flesh side -- the pineapple juice will freshen your board. Afterward rinse the board under warm water and dry thoroughly.

The pretty crown that you cut off from the pineapple can turn into a pineapple plant if you stick it into some dirt. But you'll have to have patience to wait for a pineapple to grow, about 18 months. Make sure to leave about 2 inches of fruit attached to the crown when you cut it off to ensure it's viable for planting.

Recipes

Pineapple Empanaditas
Pork-and-Pineapple Fried Rice
Pineapple-Jicama Salsa
Pineapple Curry Chicken Skewers
Yogurt Panna Cotta with Pineapple Granita
Pineapple-Coconut Sorbet
Parfait of Spice-Roasted Pineapple with Frozen Yogurt

Do you have a special way to cut fresh pineapple? Leave us a comment below.

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