Why It Works
- Pineapple skins contain a lot of flavor and can be used to make a delicious drink from material that would otherwise be discarded.
Pineapple skins and cores are frequently discarded, but they can be used to form the base for flavorful drinks. In Nigeria, drinks made with pineapple skins and cores, either enjoyed by themselves or combined with other flavors, like zobo, a variety of edible hibiscus flowers (hibiscus sabdariffa, flor de Jamaica), are enjoyed every day, hot or cold.
Growing up, the pineapple and zobo drink was one of my late dad's favorite things to make. He'd save pineapple skins in the freezer until we had a large batch, and then he'd simmer them all with ginger to create liters of liquid gold. Sweetened with sugar or honey, the drink is reminiscent of packaged pineapple juice.
The pineapple skin "tea" is an essential part of some herbal remedies, and it's often combined with things like lemongrass, citrus of all varieties, fresh ginger, herbs, and spices. For this recipe, I chose a few additional ingredients that have complementary flavors: ginger for its sweet, peppery warmth, lemongrass for its bright grassiness, cloves for their aroma, and one dried ancho chile for its smoky complexity.
Typically, the pineapple skins and dried zobo flowers are simmered together with cloves and ginger, but I prefer to my pineapple drink first, just in case I want to set some aside for other purposes, and then I combine it with zobo flowers to make the final drink.
- 10 cups (2.4L) water
- 2 1/3 to 3 1/2 ounces (1/3 to 1/2 cup; 65 to 100g) sugar (see note)
- Skins and core of 1 pineapple (about 17 1/2 ounces; 500g total)
- One 4-inch piece fresh ginger (3 1/2 ounces; 100g), peeled and grated
- 3 tablespoons (5g) dried lemongrass
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 whole dried ancho chile
- 1 3/4 ounces (1 cup; 50g) dried zobo (hibiscus) flowers, rinsed with cold water
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Fresh mint or basil leaves, for garnish
In a large pot, combine water, 2 1/3 ounces (65g) sugar, pineapple skins and core, ginger, lemongrass, cloves, and dried chile. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until pineapple skins are softened and slightly translucent, 40 to 45 minutes. Taste, and adjust sweetness with more sugar as desired.
Add zobo (hibiscus) flowers, and stir to combine. Remove pot from heat, and allow liquid to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth, and set over a large container. Once liquid is cooled, strain through prepared strainer in batches, gathering cheesecloth into a bundle and squeezing out as much liquid as possible; discard solids between rounds of straining. Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve over ice, garnishing with lime wedges and mint or basil leaves.
The sweetness of the drink is meant to be adjusted to taste and to account for variation in the sweetness of pineapples. Start with 2 1/3 ounces (65g) sugar, and adjust as needed with more sugar at the end of step 1.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The finished drink can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days, and frozen for up to 3 months.