New updated version - June 26th 2020
I discovered tepache, a fermented mexican drink, a few years ago, during my first visit to the Fermentation Festival in Boston. Since then, I make tepache every time I buy a pineapple. It is certainly one of the easiest fermented drinks to make, especially if you consider yourself a neophyte in fermentation. And if you love the taste of it, I bet it will become your favorite summer drink!
Tepache is a wild fermented beverage, which means without the addition of a culture. The fermentation process, which is very quick and only takes a few days, is initaited by the natural presence of yeast and bacterias on the pineapple itself. But be careful : a too long fermentation process and you'll end up with a vinegary drink!
1 pineapple, ripe enough and preferably organic
½ cup (85g) of raw cane sugar (look for either piloncillo or panela cane sugar), or a piloncillo cone*
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 cardamom pods (optional)
about 1,5 liter of water
* From my experience and some testimonials I had, I advise you not to use refined sugar to make your tepache. And even though sucanat cane sugar can do the trick here, I strongly encourage you to find raw sugar such as piloncillo or panela. This will give more depth and taste to your tepache, in addition to being more traditional.
one glass jar of at least 2 liters (look for mason jars or similar jars, with elbows), well cleaned
a dish towel (or coffee filter) and an elastic band
multiple small glass bottles* , well cleaned
*Make sure the bottles you use can keep the pressure well. You don't want to loose the fizziness of your tepache or, worst, that the glass explodes if the pressure is too important. You can either use old kombucha bottles or, if you can find some, old beer bottle (Grolsch type).
1. Wash the pineapple under running water while making sure there isn't any mold on its surface. Prepare the pineapple the way you usually do (prefer a method which gives you bigger/longer pieces of peel) while putting aside its meat for other purpose and keeping the peel and the core of it for the tepache*. Notes: I suggest you cut the top of the pineapple to use as a “stopper”, placing it at the very end on top of your jar. It will remain stabled under the shoulders of your jar if you use a container such as a Masson jar.
2. Put the pineapple peel and core in the mason jar, along with the sugar and the spicesé Pour the water and mix with a wooden spoon. To keep the peels submerged, find the largest piece of peel and place it under the shoulders of the pot masson. That way, it should stay in place and keep smaller pieces of peel to get to the surface.
3. Cover with the dish towel (or coffee filter) and the elastic band. Store in a place sheltered from direct light and well ventilated (basically, not directly on the side of a window or in the back of a cupboard).
4. Let ferment 2 to 5 days, depending of the room temperature, checking on it on a daily basis. After two or three days, start tasting the tepache. You're looking for a light fizziness on your tongue. You should see enough bubbles that form on the surface of the tepache. When you have both enough bubbles and fizziness, the tepache is ready to be bottled for its second fermentation. In summer, when it's warmer, the tepache will ferment quicker; on the opposite, it will ferment slower in winter, taking sometimes a week or more. This first fermentation is called aerobic, which mean with air.
5. Strain the tepache while keeping the spices, the peel and the core of the pineapple.
6. With the funnel, pour the tepache in the bottles and close them, making sure they are hermetically closed so the pressure can take form. Store the bottles in a place sheltered from direct light and let ferment a second time, one to three days, depending of the room temperature. The warmer it is, the quicker it will ferment and vice versa if it's colder. This second fermentation is called anaerobic, which means without air. Its purpose is to build more fizziness in the tepache. You can always skip that second part if you find the tepache to your taste after the first fermentation, and simply store the bottles in the fridge.
7. After one or three days of second fermentation at room temperature, store the bottles in the fridge. Enjoy the tepache once well chilled.
8. You can repeat the whole process up to three times, with the same spices and pineapple peel and core, by simply adding water and suger to the jar every time. You can also add a few more spices if you want to. Obviously, every batch will slighly be less tasty.
Notes (updated version; points 3 to 6)
Cut the pineapple in a generous way, keeping some "meat" on the peel itself. This will increase the sugar quantity of the tepache while giving a stronger pineapple taste to it.
Even in the fridge, the fermentation process still goes on, but at a very slow pace. It is then possible that tepache builds more fizziness after a little while in the fridge.
So the fermentation process can start, it is necessary that yeasts and bacteria are present on the skin of your pineapple. If you clean your pineapple with soap (such as we do since COVID19), fermentation may be almost impossible. The same issue is true if you put your pineapple skin in the freezer to use later (the freezer may kill all microbial activity).
To accentuate the fermentation process and sparkling activity, add a few slices of fresh ginger and/or turmeric (with the skin on). The skin of these roots are rich in yeast and bacteria, ready to activate the process of fermentation. This is also why so many ginger kombucha exist on the market, but also why we can easily start a gingerbug from scratch. You can also add a few tablespoons of gingerbug to your tepache to initiate more quickly the fermentation. Always prefer organic ginger / turmeric to non-organic ones (these are sometimes irradiated, which kills all microbial activity).
You can add other fruit peels/skin to your tepache, such as mango peels.
You can slightly reduce the amount of sugar; I have had successful results with 1/3 of a cup (instead of 1/2 a cup) as well. It is also possible to make up to 4 loads of tepache with the very same peels. while adding new spices, a few slices of ginger / turmeric and sugar to each new brew!